How are the big tech companies reacting to the invasion of Ukraine? | Science and technology news
The Russian invasion of Ukraine has prompted outrage and sanctions, but direct power to shape the fate of the people in the 21st century does not rest solely with governments.
From social media platforms used for information warfare to software companies protecting customers from state-sponsored cyberattacks, the invasion has highlighted the importance of tech companies in times of conflict.
They are also potential levers of influence. Ukraine’s Digital Minister Mykhailo Federov has urged a number of companies, including Netflix, to block their services in Russia.
Read more: Could Russia Turn to Cryptocurrencies and Cybercrime to Circumvent Sanctions?
Many argued in response that maintaining their services was the best way to inform the Russians of the invasion, but some have been withdrawn and others are being monitored for tampering.
In alphabetical order, here’s how they answer:
In a statement, Apple said, “We are deeply concerned by the Russian invasion of Ukraine and stand with all those suffering from the violence.”
The company said it has suspended “all product sales” in Russia while “restricting Apple Pay and other services.”
In Ukraine, the company has “disabled both traffic and live incidents on Apple Maps … as a safety and precautionary measure for Ukrainian citizens” amid fears Russia could attack places where large groups were gathering.
Outside of Russia, the company has removed the apps for RT and Sputnik from the App Store.
In a statement, Google said, “The Russian invasion of Ukraine is both a tragedy and a humanitarian disaster in the making.”
In Ukraine, the company has updated its search and mapping services to provide alerts to UN resources for people searching for information on refugees and asylum seekers.
Similar to Apple, the company has also disabled some live Google Maps features in the country, “including traffic levels and information about how busy places are, to protect the safety of local communities and their citizens.”
Google said it has been taking action against “Russia-backed hacking and manipulation operations” for years and continues to automatically increase security protections for Google accounts.
Read more: Cyber, war and Ukraine – what does recent history teach us?
It said it also provides DDoS attack protection for more than 100 Ukrainian websites, including local news services.
The company has blocked RT and Sputnik-affiliated YouTube channels across Europe – including the UK, which does not fall under European Union restrictions – and has banned RT from monetizing its content on any of its advertising platforms.
In Russia, the company said most of its services would remain available, helping people there access global information and perspectives beyond that of the state-controlled media.
Meta said: “In response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, our teams have been on high alert to identify emerging threats and respond as quickly as possible.”
It has blocked access to RT and Sputnik across the EU and downgraded content from Russian state-controlled media on Facebook and Instagram worldwide and fact-checks posts about the conflict.
Nick Clegg said Meta faces restrictions in Russia as a result of the rejection of the Kremlin’s demands Stop fact checking and flagging posts.
Meta added that it also uncovered information warfare networks operating fictional people and brands on the internet and had their accounts deleted.
It added that there are “increased attacks on people in Ukraine, including Ukrainian military and public figures” by a hacking group that the security community believes has ties to Belarus and Russia, warning that the hackers would send friend requests through their social platforms.
Additional privacy and security safeguards for accounts have been introduced in Ukraine and will also be added in Russia “in response to public reports of attacks on civil society and protesters,” the company added.
In its statement, Microsoft said it was “closely following the tragic, unlawful and unjustified invasion of Ukraine” and was working to support humanitarian organizations.
The company said it is and will continue to expose and advise the Ukrainian government on cyberattacks on the country’s digital infrastructure.
Read more: Should the UK be concerned about an escalating cyber conflict?
“We remain particularly concerned about the recent cyberattacks on Ukrainian civilian digital targets, including the financial sector, agriculture, emergency services, humanitarian relief efforts, and energy sector organizations and companies,” the company said.
Microsoft also added that it is removing the RT news apps from the Windows App Store and de-ranking RT and Sputnik on Bing and banning all their ads from its networks.
Netflix has not issued a statement on the conflict but is estimated to have around a million subscribers in Russia.
A recently passed Russian law that went into effect on March 1 means the American platform is now required to add 20 state-controlled TV channels to its streaming services.
However, in connection with the invasion of Ukraine, this has not yet been implemented.
A Netflix spokesman told Sky News: “Given the current situation, we have no plans to add these channels to our service.”
Netflix had previously launched original programming in Russia, including Anna K, a contemporary retelling of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina.
However, Sky News understands that Netflix has now halted all Russian productions and acquisitions.
Snap said, “We stand in solidarity with our Ukrainian team members and the people of Ukraine who are fighting for their lives and for their freedom.”
The company’s augmented reality capabilities are based on technology from a Ukrainian company called Looksery, which it acquired in 2015, and Snap said Ukraine has been home to more than 300 of its team members.
It said it had halted all advertising in Russia, Ukraine and even Belarus as a result of the conflict.
It also stopped advertising sales to all Russian and Belarusian organizations. The company said it does not accept revenue from Russian state-owned companies.
The Snapchat app will continue to be available in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia “as it remains an important communication tool for family and friends” as the company will continue to monitor for disinformation and other abuses.
“Ukraine is a nation whose incredible potential is helping to create a more positive future for the world, and we will not waver in our solidarity,” the company’s statement concluded.
Twitter said it was “actively monitoring risks related to the conflict in Ukraine, including identifying and stopping attempts to spread false and misleading information.”
The company had already banned RT and Sputnik from running ads after allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election.
It added that it temporarily paused all ads in Ukraine and Russia.
Similar to Meta, Twitter flags the posts of media sponsored by the Russian state. The company said it was aware that the site would be restricted in Russia as a result.
We realize that some people in Russia have restrictions on Twitter, and we work to keep our service safe and accessible.
— Twitter Support (@TwitterSupport) February 26, 2022
This included monitoring high-profile accounts, “including journalists, activists, and government officials and agencies, to mitigate attempts at targeted takeover or manipulation.”
It has also withheld content on RT and Sputnik for users within the EU and says that outside the EU it will “focus on de-amplifying this type of pro-state media content”.