As war wages between Ukraine and Russia, the responses from the world’s tech giants are in the spotlight with misinformation (and real information) becoming a big problem for the protagonists, more the former for the Ukrainians and more the latter for the Russians.
- Meta has put restrictions on Russian-owned media outlets.
- Google has increased security for people in the region and banned a number of Russian media outlets from YouTube, including RT and Sputnik.
- Apple has paused all product sales in Russia.
- Twitter has permanently suspended more than a dozen accounts.
- Snapchat has stopped all advertising running in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine.
- Oracle has suspended operations in Russia.
- TikTok has put restrictions on Russian-owned media outlets.
- Spotify has closed its Russian office.
- Twitch will ban chronic spreaders of misinformation.
- Airbnb is suspending all operations in Russia and Belarus.
- SAP is stopping business in Russia aligned with sanctions and, in addition, pausing all sales of SAP services and products in Russia.
- AWS blocks new Russian and Belarusian signups.
- Western Union suspends operations in Russia and Belarus.
Leaders from Ukraine and countries supporting it have been urging Twitter, Meta and Google to take action to reduce misinformation and block certain Russian-owned news channels on their sites.
Last Friday, Ukrainian officials begged Apple, Meta and Google to take actions against Russia to reduce the spread of misinformation and cut down the Russian state-controlled media.
The leaders of Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia sent a joint letter to the CEOs of Meta, Twitter, Google and YouTube to suspend the accounts of Russian and Belarusian state institutions, the state-controlled media and its leader’s accounts.
They also asked to suspend all accounts engaged in “denying, glorifying, or justifying wars of aggression, war crimes and crimes against humanity”.
On the other side of the border, more than 10,000 Russian IT workers have signed a petition condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The petition reads, “We consider any display of force that leads to the outbreak of war unjustified and call for the reversal of decisions that could inevitably entail human casualties on each side. Our countries have always been close to each other.
"And today we are worried about our Ukrainian colleagues, friends and relatives. We are concerned and morally oppressed by what is happening now in the cities of Ukraine.”
According to the Washington Post, some of the signatures belonged to employees of social media giant VK, cybersecurity leader Kaspersky Lab and online job recruitment platform HeadHunter.
Even technology leaders in Russia are openly rejecting the attacks. Eugene Kapersky, head of cybersecurity firm Kapersky Lab tweeted his thoughts on the current conflict.
"We welcome the start of negotiations to resolve the current situation in Ukraine and hope that they will lead to a cessation of hostilities and a compromise. We believe that peaceful dialogue is the only possible instrument for resolving conflicts. War isn’t good for anyone," he said.
Meta and Google have put restrictions on the Russian state-controlled media outlets not only in Ukraine but around the world.
According to Meta, it has established a special operations centre staffed by experts from across the company, including native Russian and Ukrainian speakers, who are monitoring the platform around the clock, allowing us to respond to issues in real time.
Meta said it has added several safety features in Ukraine and Russia, including the ability for people to lock their Facebook profile, removing the ability to view and search friends lists, and additional tools on Messenger.
“We’re taking extensive steps to fight the spread of misinformation by expanding our third-party fact-checking capacity in Russian and Ukrainian. We’re also providing more transparency around state-controlled media outlets, prohibiting ads from Russian state media and demonetising their accounts," the company said in a post.
Google is updating search maps in Ukraine, expanding security protections and promoting information quality.
In a post it said it is automatically increasing Google account security protections for people in the region and will continue to do so as cyber threats evolve.
“Our Advanced Protection Program — which delivers Google’s highest level of security — is currently protecting the accounts of hundreds of high-risk users in Ukraine. And “Project Shield,” a service providing free unlimited protection against Distributed Denial of Service attacks, is already protecting over 100 Ukrainian websites, including local news services,” the company stated.
Google's owner Alphabet has also banned a number of Russian media outlets from Youtube, including RT and Sputnik.
Apple has paused all product sales in Russia, in a statement the iPhone maker said it will be stopping all exports into its sales channels in Russia, Apple Pay and other services have been reduced according to Apple.
The Russian state media, RT news and Sputnik News, are no longer available for download from the Apple Store outside Russia.
Apple said “We are deeply concerned about the Russian invasion of Ukraine and stand with all of the people who are suffering as a result of the violence. We are supporting humanitarian efforts, providing aid for the unfolding refugee crisis, and doing all we can to support our teams in the region."
Twitter said it has permanently suspended more than a dozen accounts and blocked some content that violated its manipulation and spam policy. It also said it would label all posts containing links to Russian state-backed media.
Snapchat has stopped all advertising running in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. It is also halting ad sales to all Russian and Belarusian entities and are complying with all sanctions targeting Russian businesses and individuals.
The company said it does not “accept revenue from Russian state-owned entities”.
Oracle has also come out against Russia's actions, it tweeted that it suspended operations in Russia.
"On behalf of Oracle’s 150,000 employees around the world and in support of both the elected government of Ukraine and for the people of Ukraine, Oracle Corporation has already suspended all operations in the Russian Federation," the company said.
The Chinese social media giant has restricted access to some Russian state-controlled media accounts in the EU including RT and Sputnik.
Spotify has closed its offices in Russia indefinitely. The streaming giant has also restricted the discoverability of Russian-backed affiliate content on the platform. It has also removed all content from RT and Sputnik.
In a statement to Variety, it said it will still let users in Russia stream music as it is "critically important" to keep its service running in Russia to continue the flow of global information.
Twitch has created new rules at clamping down those streamers who rampantly spread misinformation. The streaming site will only take down accounts if they meet certain criteria, if they have persistently been sharing misinformation that has been widely debunked.
Brian Chesky, CEO at Airbnb tweeted that Airbnb is suspending all operations in Russia and Belarus.
SAP is stopping business in Russia aligned with sanctions and, in addition, pausing all sales of SAP services and products in Russia.
In a post the company said, "Economic sanctions against Russia are an important mechanism in the efforts to restore peace. We are in constant exchange with governments around the world, have every confidence in their guidance, and fully support the actions taken so far."
Amazon Web Services (AWS) has blocked new customers from Russia and Belarus from signing up to its platform.
Western Union has suspended all operations in Russia and Belarus.
In a statement the company said, "We have thoroughly evaluated internal and external considerations, including the consequences for our valued teammates, partners, and customers. Ultimately, in light of the ongoing tragic impact of Russia’s prolonged assault on Ukraine, we have arrived at the decision to suspend our operations in Russia and Belarus."