The cautionary tale of the global de-platforming of Russia

Following Russia's military operations in Ukraine, countries such as the U.K., the U.S., Canada, and the E.U. imposed sanctions on Russia.

Key Russian banks were blocked from the interbank transaction system, SWIFT.  Both Putin and Russian oligarchs allegedly part of Putin's inner circle were sanctioned by the U.S., U.K., and E.U.  Even historically neutral Switzerland froze assets belonging to Putin and top Russian officials.

Russian flights have been banned from E.U. and U.S. airspace. 

Big Tech is restricting the reach of Russian state-owned news outlets.  YouTubeFacebook, Twitter, TikTok, and Telegram have blocked or limited access and demonetized the accounts such as Russia Today and Sputnik.  Twitter has started "fact-checking" and reducing the reach of Russia Today. 

Reddit has "quarantined" its Russian content.  Namecheap, a domain registrar, has blocked Russian customers.  Online payment systems Google Pay, PayPal, and Apple Pay have blocked their services, causing grave inconvenience.  Netflix won't air Russian channels on its platform in Russia.  Microsoft and Apple have halted sales of their services and products in Russia.

Sports federations have banned Russia's teams and athletes. 

FIFA, soccer's global governing body, suspended all Russian teams.  The International Chess Federation will not hold its annual congress or its Chess Olympiad in Moscow.  The International Automobile Federation, which manages Formula One, canceled its Russian Grand Prix.  The National Hockey League won't host future events in Russia and is pausing relationships with Russian business partners.  The International Paralympic Committee won't hold events in Russia.  Even differently-abled Russian athletes were (unfairly) banned from the 2022 Winter Paralympics.

Putin was suspended as honorary president and ambassador of the International Judo Federation.  The federation canceled its events in Russia.

The organizers of the Cannes Film Festival said official Russian delegations and those linked to the Russian government "will not be welcomed."  Hollywood studios have paused their film releases in Russia.  Russian opera singer Anna Netrebko was banned from the New York Metropolitan Opera.

Boycott Russian Cinema.

The Mercedes-Benz GroupThe Volkswagen Group, and Toyota have suspended car sales and have halted production in Russia.

Home furnishing giant Ikea is halting production in Russia.  Hosting platform Airbnb has halted all its activities in Russia.  Nike will no longer sell its products in Russia.  Clothes retailers such as Inditex and Mango have shut down their stores in Russia.

Samsung, Russia's top smartphones supplier, has suspended shipments to Russia.

Shopping centers around the world and even in the U.S. have banned sales of Russian-made items such as vodka.

The bans aren't restricted to humans.  Russian cats have been banned from international competition by the "United Nations of cat federations."

Major brands and news organizations have added the hues of the Ukrainian flag to their logos.  Landmark monuments around the world lit up in the colors of the Ukrainian flag to display support.

In the coming weeks, expect others to join the mob or be compelled to join the boycott movement.

So will these sanctions, bans, and boycotts work?

Putin has described sanctions imposed by Western nations as "akin to a declaration of war."

The impact in the long term will be high inflation, higher interest rates, lower investment, lower growth, unemployment, shortage of essential items, inconvenience, hardships, and lower living standards of regular people in Russia.

But the sanctions will have no immediate impact on the action in Ukraine, which are its stated goals.

Russia has been subject to embargoes since 2014, following the annexation of Crimea.  The Russians will find ways to circumvent restrictions, although private enterprises jumping with restrictions makes dodging much more difficult.

Russia's allies such as China are likely to increase their purchases from Russia and perhaps facilitate a channel to supply the goods that are banned.

Sanctions also could have the opposite effect.  When a group of powerful foreign powers gangs up to strangle a nation, it could arouse a nationalist fervor.

The information vacuum caused by Putin's media bans and social media restrictions will enable the pushing of a narrative of the supreme leader standing steadfast against the hegemony of the West.

The proponents of these coordinated passive-aggressive measures think they are doing this for moral reasons.  In fact, many self-righteous proponents think these restrictions haven't gone far enough.

There are glaring inconsistencies that experts have noticed.

There were no restrictions against China for COVID-19 or its ill-treatment of the Uyghurs or for muzzling its media.  In fact, government and private enterprises have been tight-lipped about China's record and are petrified even to utter the words "Taiwan" and "Uyghurs" for fear of upsetting their masters.

There were no restrictions on BLM following BLM-led riots, arson, and looting in the U.S. and beyond.

The boycott mob, particularly Big Tech, sided with the powerful in Canada to strike down a democratic trucker protest against vaccine mandates.

Apart from the contradictions, the question remains: can such measures be applied to countries, organizations, and people merely for going against the groupthink?

We are living in the age of the mob.  This mob gets bolder every day.

It began with the Big Tech mob.  Their products were introduced for amusement.  Soon they became addictions, and finally, they had a monopoly, which enabled them to become arbiters of content.

In 2018, YouTube, Facebook, and Apple imposed a permanent ban on Alex Jones.  Jones isn't to everybody's taste.  Many, including conservatives, regard him as a bombastic pretender.  Hence, even the Trump administration ignored the ban because it was "loony old Alex Jones."

But Jones was merely the beginning.  In the following years, the restrictions grew more stringent.  They limited, demonetized, and labeled as "misleading" the content that didn't adhere to their groupthink.  Finally, they de-platformed a sitting president.  They even used their power to rig the 2020 presidential elections.  COVID-19 saw the most stringent restrictions applied by Big Tech.

The scope of the bans on Russia is much wider than just Big Tech.  The mob has clearly grown in strength.

Leaders such as Boris Johnson, who was facing backlash for having parties during the COVID-19 lockdown in the U.K., and Justin Trudeau, who was savaged for applying anti-democratic measures to crush the Freedom Convoy, are desperately looking for a change of narrative.

This applies to Biden, who is also struggling on all fronts, and leaders in the E.U., who were facing protests for COVID-19 restrictions and mandates.

The action in Ukraine has provided them with an opportunity to be on the right side of a popular issue; hence they cheer the anti-Russian mob and indulge in empty symbolic support.  The issue has been actively promoted by corporate media houses that are aggressively cheering for Ukraine.

If history has taught us anything, it is that power once grabbed is never relinquished.

The new mob that comprises global organizations such as NATO, national governments, Big Tech, and big corporations has just developed and successfully tested a weapon of mass isolation.

It is, hence, not a question of if, but when this weapon will be used again for flimsier reasons.

What began with Alex Jones ended at the doorstep of President Donald Trump.  Where will all this end up?

Graphic credit: Vidsich, CC BY 3.0 license.

If you experience technical problems, please write to