Sanctioned Russian Media Entities and Individuals Accessible on TikTok

6 Jun 2024 | Reports

Authors:
Rikard Friberg von Sydow, Södertörn University
Saman Nazari, Alliance4Europe. 

Contributor:
Science Feedback

This Flash report was made possible through a collaboration facilitated by the EU Election ISAC.

 

 

 

Case

As a response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine which started in 2014 and reached full-scale in 2022, the EU enacted sanctions against a number of individuals and organisations offering support to the Russian war effort.

In addition to political and military decision-makers or military-industrial organisations, a number of Kremlin-controlled media entities and prominent propagandists are included in these sanctions list. As a consequence, broadcasting content from these entities is forbidden in the EU.

On May 14, 2024, the European Commission further clarified that the sanctions prohibit hosting content from these channels or making them available to EU audiences on video-sharing platforms.

As of June 5th 2024, the following media entities are under sanction:

Russia Today and its subsidiaries Sputnik and its subsidiaries
Katehon Rossiya 24 / Russia 24
New Eastern Outlook Rossiya 1
NTV/NTV Mir Rossiyskaya Gazeta
Oriental Review Spas TV Channel
Pervyi Kanal Rossiya RTR / RTR Planeta
REN TV Tsargrad TV Channel
RIA Novosti TV Centre International
Izvestia Voice of Europe

Table 1: Sanctioned Russian media entities.

Despite these legal provisions, as of early June 2024, in the week before the European elections, TikTok channels linked to EU-sanctioned Russian state-controlled media and media personalities remained accessible to EU-based audiences.

 

Channels Analysis

On TikTok, these channels include:

  • channels verified as authentic by TikTok and labelled as Russian state-controlled media (e.g. 1, 2, 3),
  • accounts with all the hallmarks of official channels (name, logo, only posting content produced by the entity) but without any external verification (e.g. 4, 5, 6),
  • accounts that repeatedly (sometimes exclusively) post content produced by those entities but which do not appear to be affiliated with them (e.g. 7, 8, 9).

In addition, several accounts with some connection to the sanctioned entities (e.g. logo, name, state-controlled media label by TikTok) have been inactive for a few months or more (e.g. 10, 11). These channels might have their content already removed by TikTok, be used as backup accounts, or simply been left unused by their creators for reasons unrelated to the sanctions.

Beyond those accounts that are directly affiliated or strongly aligned with sanctioned Russian media entities, individual content from those channels is routinely posted by other users (e.g. 12, 13, 14)

In addition to media entities, accounts of individual media personalities (either official accounts or accounts entirely dedicated to resharing their content) in the EU sanctions list (Annex I of Council Regulation No 269/2014) are available on the platform (e.g. 15, 16).

 

Official channels

29 channels that are either official channels of these sanctioned media or that are posing as them were identified, as were 4 channels affiliated with or posing as sanctioned individuals.

NAME LINK STATUS
RT Spanish (17) tiktok.com/@actualidadrt Labeled but still accessible. Spanish.
Russia.today.07 (18) tiktok.com/@russia.today.07 Not labelled. French. 
RT en Maghreb (19) tiktok.com/@rtenmaghreb Focus toward Maghreb. Not labelled. Active. 
Russia_Today_RT (20) tiktok.com/@russia_today_rt Vietnamese. Not labelled. Not active since 2023. 
Russian_rt (21) tiktok.com/@russian_rt Not labelled. Not active since 2022
Rtarabicnewsroom (22) tiktok.com/@rtarabicnewsroom4 Not labelled. Not active since 2023. 
RT en Afrique (23) tiktok.com/@rtenafrique  Focus toward Francophone Africa. Not labelled. Active
Sputnik Belarus (24) tiktok.com/@sputnik.by  Sputnik Belarus. Official and labelled.
Sputnik Stories (25) tiktok.com/@sputnikstories  Sputnik Stories. Official and labelled.
Российская Газета (26) tiktok.com/@rosgaz  Rossiyskaya Gazeta. Official and labelled. 
Rentvrussia (27) tiktok.com/@rentvrussia  РЕН ТВ. Not labelled. 
Rentv_news (28) tiktok.com/@ren_tv_news  Official and labelled. Not active since 2022. 
Izvestia (29) tiktok.com/@izvestia_ru  Official and labelled. Not active since 2022. 
Ria Novosti / РИА Новости (30) tiktok.com/@ria_novosti  Official and labelled. Active.
TV Russia 1 / Телеканал Россия 1 (31) tiktok.com/@tvrussia1  Official and labelled. Active.
Soloviev_live (32) tiktok.com/@soloviev_live  Not labelled. Not active since 2022. Personally listed on the sanction list, number 230 (x).
Guerraenucraniahoy (Actualidad RT) (33). tiktok.com/@guerraenucraniahoy  Not labelled. Not active since 2023
Actualidadrt1 (34) tiktok.com/@actualidadrt1  Not labelled, Not active since 2023, posted 1 video.
Tech lado (35) tiktok.com/@techladotips  Labelled. Not active since 2022.
RT Futuro (36) tiktok.com/@rtfuturo  Labelled, last post 31/03/2024
actualidad.rt  tiktok.com/@actualidad.rt  Unlabelled, Active
actualidad.sp (37) tiktok.com/@actualidadrt.sp  Unlabelled. Not Active. Last post in January
Actualidadrt.a4 (38) tiktok.com/@actualidadrt.a4 Unlabelled. Not active. Last post in March.
Rt.news (39) tiktok.com/@rt.news Self-identifies as Russian State-controlled media. Last post in April.
Rt.news (40) tiktok.com/@rt.news___ Unlabelled. Last post in May. 
Comewithmetoknow (41) tiktok.com/@comewithmetoknow Unlabelled. Last post 2022.
RT Arabic Algeria (42) tiktok.com/@rtarabicalgeria Unlabelled. Active.
Going Underground (43) tiktok.com/@goingundergroundnews Unlabelled, Active, 
GoingUndergroundTV (44) tiktok.com/@goingundergroundtv Unlabelled, last post-April
Simonyan.m (45) tiktok.com/@simonyan.m Verified, unlabelled, Active. Personally listed in the sanctions list under number 228.
RT Brasil (46) tiktok.com/@rtnoticias_br  Unlabelled, Active. 
Zakharprilepin (47) tiktok.com/@zakharprilepin  Not active since 2021. Unlabelled. Personally listed in the sanctions list under number 687.
Arcady_mamontov (48) tiktok.com/@arcady_mamontov  Last post 2020. Unlabelled. Personally listed in the sanctions list under number 689.

Table 2: official accounts of EU-sanctioned entities/individuals or accounts posing as such. 

These accounts were accessible from at least six EU countries as of June 5, 2024: Belgium, France, Germany, Poland, Spain and Sweden. 

 

Amplifiers

In addition to official pages of Russian state-controlled media or pages posing as such, some pages routinely repost and amplify the sanctioned entities’ content.

This republication can include outright republishing or republication of content that has been cut or had watermarks added to it. 

Considering the May 14 European Commission clarification, hosting such content also runs afoul of the EU sanctions.

NAME LINK STATUS
Naviarmani1 (49) tiktok.com/@naviarmani1  A systematic amplifier of RT. 
Svensky1976 (50) tiktok.com/@svensky1976  Inactive, RT Germany amplifier.
Perspektive2news (51) tiktok.com/@perspektive2news Systematically republishing RT Germany content
Humain237o (52) tiktok.com/@humain237o News aggregator who at times republishes RT France content
Regardsurlafrique TV (53) tiktok.com/@regardsurlafrique_tv Active. Frequently reposts RT France.
Graf Bumsula 13 (54) tiktok.com/@graf.bumsula.13 Regularly republish RT content.
Globalreservecoin (55) tiktok.com/@globalreservecoin  Regularly republish RT content, last post in February.
Chris31_1_404 (56) tiktok.com/@chris31_1_404  News aggregators regularly republish RT content. Last Post was in May.

Table 3: some examples of amplifiers.

An exhaustive search of all accounts sharing content produced by sanctioned entities was beyond the scope of this report, partly due to the absence of programmatic access to TikTok’s systems under DSA Article 40.12. However, its authors note that such content appeared to be prevalent. It is therefore likely that a thorough search would result in tens or hundreds of thousands of such pieces of content.   

 

 

Influence

The identified accounts have over 8 million followers and 196 million likes on TikTok.

The largest account found is the official Spanish-language RT account (2.9 million followers and 105 million likes). No ready explanation was found as to why such a prominent account was not geo-blocked for EU users.

The target audience of many of these accounts is not solely in the EU:

  • A number of accounts identified post only in Russian – which can still reach the millions of Russian-speaking audiences in the EU (57),
  • Some accounts post in an official EU language but seem to be addressed at speakers of that language outside the EU (e.g. Regardsurlafrique TV, RT Brasil). However, they remain accessible to EU-based speakers of these languages.
  • Some accounts post in a non-EU language (e.g. RT Arabic Algeria), which is however widely spoken by diaspora communities living in the EU.

 

Recommendations

TikTok is seemingly aware of some of these channels, having labelled them as Russian-controlled media.

We recommend TikTok adhere to the EU’s sanctions by:

  • conducting an algorithmic sweep of their platform to detect videos and channels that use the logos and names of these sanctioned media.
  • reviewing all names on the EU sanctions list to ensure they do not have an EU-accessible presence on the platform.
  • ensuring that the accounts identified are not benefitting from revenue-sharing mechanisms which could run afoul of EU sanctions.

We further recommend TikTok also clearly label other channels controlled by authoritarian states.

We recommend that civil society actors alert platforms and authorities when they detect that sanctioned accounts or content are visible in the EU. 

We recommend that the European Commission specifies the extent to which sharing content featuring sanctioned individuals, including politicians, is permitted under the no-hosting provisions.

Hours after this report was released, TikTok took action and made all the content of the pages listed not visible in Europe. Other pages we found after publishing the report were still accessible in Europe. It seems TikTok took a reactive action rather than trying to systematically face the issue.

 

For any inquires, please contact:
saman.nazari@alliance4europe.eu