Meta was the first of the “big tech” to make a move and the rest have quickly followed suit. From fighting Russian propaganda to detecting and blocking cyberattacks in Ukraine, here are the steps big tech companies are taking
The invasion of Ukraine that began on February 24 is also having an effect on the technological world. The response that the “big tech” companies are giving to Russia confirms, as if the pandemic had not made it clear enough, that they are not only dedicating their efforts to selling more services and devices, but have also become actors that have a proactive role. in major world events . Something to be expected given the role that technology plays in the lives of citizens and societies in the 21st century, but which contrasts with the traditionally Swiss position they have maintained on matters that were not their own.
In the seven days that have passed since the Russian army crossed the Ukrainian border, the main technology companies (Google, Apple, Meta and Microsoft) have taken different measures aimed at supporting Ukraine and reinforcing Russia’s international isolation . Let’s see what their movements have been.
On the fourth day of the Russian invasion, Google announced a set of measures that affected several of its services in Ukraine and were aimed at strengthening the protection of citizens of that country. The most striking and proactive, Google Maps deactivate real-time traffic information on Ukrainian roads that could indicate the movements of Ukrainians to the Russian army. It was not a unilateral measure by Google, but taken after consultation with the Ukrainian authorities, according to Reuters.
The company has also increased security in Google user accounts that give access to all its services to prevent access to unauthorized persons. It has also blocked the distribution of news from Russian state media on Google News and the contactless payment service Google Pay on cards associated with Russian banks that are being sanctioned by the international community as a form of pressure against Russia.
On YouTube , Google has paused monetization of Russian government-funded media and restricted access to Russian TV channels in Ukraine. Following the decision announced a few days ago and formally taken yesterday by the European Union to ban the dissemination of Putin’s propaganda media such as Russia Today and Sputnik, YouTube has extended the measure to Europe, where if you try to access the Russia Today channel in Spanish , the platform returns the message that “this channel is no longer available in your country”. The “apps” of these media have also been withdrawn from the Google application store for Android mobiles in Europe.
Google also announced the donation of two million dollars in ads for those organizations and entities that are reporting on the resources they are making available to users about humanitarian aid and resettlement, etc.
The apple company announced yesterday that it stopped selling its products in Russia, where you can only buy what was in “stock” in a physical store before the decision. Following in the footsteps of Google, it has deactivated the traffic and incident functions in its Apple Maps service in Ukraine in order to protect the civilian population and also limited the operation of Apple Pay . It has banned the RT News and Sputnik News “apps” from the App Store , except in Russia. Apple’s moves come after Ukraine’s Vice President Mykhailo Fedorov requested in a personal letter to Tim Cook that the company ban Russia from using Apple products and services.
The CEO of Apple, for his part, yesterday sent an email to his employees indicating that the company would double the donations made to humanitarian organizations that try to alleviate the situation of citizens in Ukraine.
The parent company of Facebook , Instagram and WhatsApp , like Google with YouTube, has stopped monetizing videos from channels linked to the Russian state and restricted access to Russia Today and Sputnik on its platforms within the European Union. Globally, Meta is degrading the content on the Facebook pages and Instagram accounts of Russian state-controlled media outlets and making them harder to find on their platforms. The same is being applied to posts containing links to Russian-controlled media websites on Facebook, a move that will be implemented on Instagram as well.
Meta has also made available to its users in Ukraine a tool that adds security and blocks their profiles from users who are not listed as friends . In this way, unknown profiles cannot access the publications made by residents in Ukraine or download or share their profile image or access the information on the friends lists.
As for WhatsApp , the company has launched a free helpline to provide reliable information as well as details about emergency response procedures in Ukraine. Users just need to save the number +380676785917 in their phone contacts and then text the word “почати” (start) via WhatsApp to access it.
Instagram has also made encryption in one-to-one chats available to all users in Ukraine and Russia, with the exception of business accounts .
After accusing Meta of censoring its media, the Putin government has partially restricted access to Facebook in Russia .
Microsoft has also joined in blocking Russian propaganda outlets by removing RT’s app from the Windows App Store and deprioritizing Bing search results to only return links to RT and Sputnik when “a user intends to clear to navigate to those pages”.
But the company isn’t limiting itself to search results. As reported by the New York Times, Microsoft is collaborating with Ukrainian authorities to stop and mitigate cyberattacks from Russia . Hours before the beginning of the invasion last Wednesday, the Microsoft Threat Intelligence Center detected a new “malware”, dubbed FoxBlade, directed against financial institutions and ministries in Ukraine and capable of erasing all the information on the computers of a net . It notified the Ukrainian authorities of the discovery and within three hours had updated its virus detection systems to block the malicious code.