Google is following in Apple’s footsteps by removing the apps of Russian state-owned media outlets Russia Today (RT) and Sputnik from the Play Store.
Apple previously removed both apps from its App Store when it made the decision to halt iPhone, MacBook and sales of its other products in Russia.
The reason both tech giants have decided to remove the RT and Sputnik apps from their respective app stores is due to the fact that the two state-owned media outlets were sanctioned in the EU as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. These sanctions are designed to limit the spread of misinformation and by making RT and Sputnik’s apps unavailable, fewer people will be reading their coverage of the invasion.
In a statement to Reuters though, deputy editor-in-chief of RT, Anna Belkina said that tech firms like Apple and Google which have limited the distribution of her outlet’s content have yet to point to any evidence that it has reported falsehoods.
At the request of the Ukrainian government, Google previously banned the RT News app from being downloaded in the country. In a statement to TechCrunch, a spokesperson from the company explained that it is also now banned in Europe following the EU’s new sanctions, saying:
“Consistent with the work we’ve described to reduce recommendations, pause monetization, and limit the reach of Russian state-funded media, mobile apps for Russian news channels RT and Sputnik are no longer available on the Play Store across Europe. Our teams continue to monitor the situation around the clock to take swift action.”
Ahead of the EU’s latest sanctions against Russia going into place, Google also blocked the YouTube channels of both RT and Sputnik. However, EU users can still access them by using a VPN since the search giant is only geoblocking access to them.
Microsoft has also banned RT from the Microsoft Store as well as de-ranked both news sources in its search engine Bing. Meanwhile, both Facebook and TikTok are now geoblocking RT and Sputnik in the EU.
According to the European Commission, both RT and Sputnik have been used by Russian president Vladimir Putin to advance the country’s invasion of neighboring Ukraine.