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Apple, YouTube block Russia's RT and Sputnik

European Union leaders attend a summit at the Chateau de Versailles near Paris on March 11, 2022. Photo by the European Union/ UPI | License Photo

March 1 (UPI) -- Both Apple and YouTube took action Tuesday against Russian-owned media outlets RT and Sputnik because of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Apple removed the state-run outlets from its App store around the world except for Russia and stopped selling its products through the Apple Store in Russia, along with limiting Apple Pay and other services.

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"We have taken a number of actions in response to the invasion. We have paused all product sales in Russia. Last week, we stopped all exports into our sales channel in the country. Apple Pay and other services have been limited. RT News and Sputnik News are no longer available for download from the App Store outside Russia. And we have disabled both traffic and live incidents in Apple Maps in Ukraine as a safety and precautionary measure for Ukrainian citizens," an Apple representative told CNBC.

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Apple does not operate any physical Apple Stores in Russia but the company's online storefront listed all Apple products as "unavailable" for purchase or delivery in Russia.

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YouTube on Tuesday also moved to block the channels connected to RT and Sputnik across Europe, effective immediately."

"It'll take time for our systems to fully ramp up. Our teams continue to monitor the situation around the clock to take swift action," Google Europe, which owns the YouTube platform, announced in a Twitter post early Tuesday.

Facebook and Instagram's parent company, Meta, blocked the same media outlets across the European Union on Monday.

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"We have received requests from a number of governments and the EU to take further steps in relation to Russian state controlled media," Nick Clegg, Meta's president of global affairs, tweeted. "Given the exceptional nature of the current situation, we will be restricting access to RT and Sputnik across the EU at this time."

Clegg announced on Twitter Friday that Meta was continuing to apply labels to Russian state media and had banned Russian state media from running advertisements on its platform in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Russia's communication regulator, Roskomnadzor, has restricted social media access and thousands have been protesting in the streets against the Russia-Ukraine war.

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Clegg said in a statement posted to Twitter Friday that Russian authorities blamed their restrictions on social media access on Meta's refusal to stop independent fact-checking and labeling content posted on Facebook by four Russian state-owned media organizations.

"Ordinary Russians are using our apps to express themselves and organize for action," Clegg added in the statement. "We want them to continue to make their voices heard, share what's happening, and organize through Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger."

On Sunday, the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced in a statement that the European Union would "ban in the EU the Kremlin's media machine," among other moves to respond to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

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"The state-owned Russia Today and Sputnik, as well as their subsidiaries, will no longer be able to spread their lies to justify Putin's war and to sow division in our Union," Von der Leyen said in the statement. "So we are developing tools to ban their toxic and harmful disinformation in Europe."

Other measures included shutting down their air space to Russia, supplying arms to Ukraine, and extending sanctions to Belarus, with Von der Leyen saying in the statement, Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko's regime has been "complicit," in the attack against Ukraine.

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