Accused of spreading propaganda, RT gets deplatformed

The Russian state-sponsored broadcaster has been banned by Apple, Roku and Microsoft, among others.

RT app

Accused by the West of spreading propaganda about the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the network has been banned and restricted by a number of companies in recent days.

Photo: Ludovic Marin/AFP via Getty Images

It’s been a bad week for RT, the English-language TV network funded by the Russian government. Accused by the West of spreading propaganda about the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the network has been banned and restricted by a number of companies in recent days.

  • Microsoft was first among the big tech companies to sever ties with the network, removing the RT app from its app store earlier this week and deranking its search results.
  • The EU issued a ban of RT on Sunday, giving tech companies cover to restrict access to the channel in Europe as well.
  • Meta, YouTube and TikTok did just that Tuesday, banning access to RT across the continent.
  • Twitter and Google also began limiting the visibility of RT content globally this week, and Google dropped RT from its respective revenue-sharing programs.
  • Apple removed RT from its app stores outside of Russia Tuesday.
  • Roku announced late Tuesday that it would remove the RT app globally. The streaming-device-maker had previously restricted access to RT in Europe.
  • DirecTV dumped RT America on Tuesday and indicated that the channel had already been on the chopping block ahead of a potential renewal this year.
  • Spotify removed all RT content, as well as content from the Russian news agency Sputnik, from its service Wednesday.
  • The network has also seen a massive staff exodus, with a number of journalists quitting the network in protest.
  • Among the defections: Berlin-based video agency Maffick Media and financial journalist and bitcoin enthusiast Max Keiser.

This has led to a predictable backlash in Russia, where the regime has started to take retaliatory steps against Meta and Twitter. There’s also a possibility that the bans could backfire against tech companies in the future, with repressive regimes forcing them to remove apps and accounts from media companies they don’t agree with.

But how did RT get so popular in the West in the first place? There are some obvious political answers, which include a broad popularity of conspiratorial content since the rise of Donald Trump. But there’s another explanation that has a lot more to do with the economics of online media.

  • U.S. news media companies have long struggled with their online video strategy, frequently striking potentially lucrative deals with tech companies, only to see those partnerships evaporate soon after. (Remember Go90? Or Quibi? Or the industry’s infamous pivot to video, for that matter?)
  • Public and state-sponsored international broadcasters like Al Jazeera, TRT and RT, however, have had less pressure to chase ad dollars, allowing them to build massive audiences on YouTube, Facebook and elsewhere just by iterating on what works for them — whether that’s a bigger focus on international conflicts and social movements or pro-Russian propaganda.
  • RT, for instance, claims to have surpassed 10 billion views across its YouTube channels.

The flip side, of course, is that although these broadcasters may not be financially dependent on ad dollars, they still need Big Tech’s platforms to reach an audience. And if they’re being deplatformed, that audience can disappear overnight.

Update: This story was updated at 3:30 p.m. PT Wednesday to include information about Spotify.

A 'Soho house for techies': VCs place a bet on community

Contrary is the latest venture firm to experiment with building community spaces instead of offices.

Contrary NYC is meant to re-create being part of a members-only club where engineers and entrepreneurs can hang out together, have a space to work, and host events for people in tech.

Photo: Courtesy of Contrary

In the pre-pandemic times, Contrary’s network of venture scouts, founders, and top technologists reflected the magnetic pull Silicon Valley had on the tech industry. About 80% were based in the Bay Area, with a smattering living elsewhere. Today, when Contrary asked where people in its network were living, the split had changed with 40% in the Bay Area and another 40% living in or planning to move to New York.

It’s totally bifurcated now, said Contrary’s founder Eric Tarczynski.

Keep Reading Show less
Biz Carson

Biz Carson ( @bizcarson) is a San Francisco-based reporter at Protocol, covering Silicon Valley with a focus on startups and venture capital. Previously, she reported for Forbes and was co-editor of Forbes Next Billion-Dollar Startups list. Before that, she worked for Business Insider, Gigaom, and Wired and started her career as a newspaper designer for Gannett.

Sponsored Content

Great products are built on strong patents

Experts say robust intellectual property protection is essential to ensure the long-term R&D required to innovate and maintain America's technology leadership.

Every great tech product that you rely on each day, from the smartphone in your pocket to your music streaming service and navigational system in the car, shares one important thing: part of its innovative design is protected by intellectual property (IP) laws.

From 5G to artificial intelligence, IP protection offers a powerful incentive for researchers to create ground-breaking products, and governmental leaders say its protection is an essential part of maintaining US technology leadership. To quote Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo: "intellectual property protection is vital for American innovation and entrepreneurship.”

Keep Reading Show less
James Daly
James Daly has a deep knowledge of creating brand voice identity, including understanding various audiences and targeting messaging accordingly. He enjoys commissioning, editing, writing, and business development, particularly in launching new ventures and building passionate audiences. Daly has led teams large and small to multiple awards and quantifiable success through a strategy built on teamwork, passion, fact-checking, intelligence, analytics, and audience growth while meeting budget goals and production deadlines in fast-paced environments. Daly is the Editorial Director of 2030 Media and a contributor at Wired.

Binance CEO wrestles with the 'Chinese company' label

Changpeng "CZ" Zhao, who leads crypto’s largest marketplace, is pushing back on attempts to link Binance to Beijing.

Despite Binance having to abandon its country of origin shortly after its founding, critics have portrayed the exchange as a tool of the Chinese government.

Photo: Akio Kon/Bloomberg via Getty Images

In crypto, he is known simply as CZ, head of one of the industry’s most dominant players.

It took only five years for Binance CEO and co-founder Changpeng Zhao to build his company, which launched in 2017, into the world’s biggest crypto exchange, with 90 million customers and roughly $76 billion in daily trading volume, outpacing the U.S. crypto powerhouse Coinbase.

Keep Reading Show less
Benjamin Pimentel

Benjamin Pimentel ( @benpimentel) covers crypto and fintech from San Francisco. He has reported on many of the biggest tech stories over the past 20 years for the San Francisco Chronicle, Dow Jones MarketWatch and Business Insider, from the dot-com crash, the rise of cloud computing, social networking and AI to the impact of the Great Recession and the COVID crisis on Silicon Valley and beyond. He can be reached at bpimentel@protocol.com or via Google Voice at (925) 307-9342.


How I decided to leave the US and pursue a tech career in Europe

Melissa Di Donato moved to Europe to broaden her technology experience with a different market perspective. She planned to stay two years. Seventeen years later, she remains in London as CEO of Suse.

“It was a hard go for me in the beginning. I was entering inside of a company that had been very traditional in a sense.”

Photo: Suse

Click banner image for more How I decided seriesA native New Yorker, Melissa Di Donato made a life-changing decision back in 2005 when she packed up for Europe to further her career in technology. Then with IBM, she made London her new home base.

Today, Di Donato is CEO of Germany’s Suse, now a 30-year-old, open-source enterprise software company that specializes in Linux operating systems, container management, storage, and edge computing. As the company’s first female leader, she has led Suse through the coronavirus pandemic, a 2021 IPO on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange, and the acquisitions of Kubernetes management startup Rancher Labs and container security company NeuVector.

Keep Reading Show less
Donna Goodison

Donna Goodison (@dgoodison) is Protocol's senior reporter focusing on enterprise infrastructure technology, from the 'Big 3' cloud computing providers to data centers. She previously covered the public cloud at CRN after 15 years as a business reporter for the Boston Herald. Based in Massachusetts, she also has worked as a Boston Globe freelancer, business reporter at the Boston Business Journal and real estate reporter at Banker & Tradesman after toiling at weekly newspapers.


UiPath had a rocky few years. Rob Enslin wants to turn it around.

Protocol caught up with Enslin, named earlier this year as UiPath’s co-CEO, to discuss why he left Google Cloud, the untapped potential of robotic-process automation, and how he plans to lead alongside founder Daniel Dines.

Rob Enslin, UiPath's co-CEO, chats with Protocol about the company's future.

Photo: UiPath

UiPath has had a shaky history.

The company, which helps companies automate business processes, went public in 2021 at a valuation of more than $30 billion, but now the company’s market capitalization is only around $7 billion. To add insult to injury, UiPath laid off 5% of its staff in June and then lowered its full-year guidance for fiscal year 2023 just months later, tanking its stock by 15%.

Keep Reading Show less
Aisha Counts

Aisha Counts (@aishacounts) is a reporter at Protocol covering enterprise software. Formerly, she was a management consultant for EY. She's based in Los Angeles and can be reached at acounts@protocol.com.

Latest Stories