Big Tech has responded to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine by offering assistance to Ukrainians, stymieing Russia’s disinformation campaigns and shuttering services Moscow’s military can use on the ground, moves that make the industry a de facto participant in the hostilities.
At the request of the Ukrainian government, rocket company SpaceX activated satellite internet service in Ukraine through its Starlink system, a move that keeps the country connected to the web even as Russia attacks its websites. AirBnb has offered free housing to Ukrainians fleeing the fighting, and US phone carriers have waived fees to customers who need to call Ukraine.
Big social networks, including Facebook-owner Meta, Twitter, and Google-owned YouTube face familiar questions about dealing with disinformation and propaganda. All three have placed restrictions on Russian state-run media’s access to ad platforms and continue to fact-check posts deemed false. Microsoft and Google have limited downloads of Russian state-run media services from their app stores.
Separately, Microsoft has worked with US and Ukrainian government officials to warn of hacking threats. After consulting with the Ukrainian government, Google disabled a feature that displays traffic conditions in its widely used Maps app, a move that could potentially make navigating more difficult for the Russian military. Apple ceased sales of its products in Russia following an appeal from Kyiv, which asked the consumer electronics giant to block Russians from accessing its app store because „modern technology is perhaps the best answer to the tanks, multiple rocket launchers, and missiles.
The actions taken by the Big Tech companies indicate a changing level of involvement for corporations caught in global conflict. While the industry has always had a role in war efforts — private sector enterprises build tanks, aircraft, and weapons, and sometimes pivot to help militaries during crises — companies weren’t often involved in battlefield actions. Now businesses are actors in the conflict.
Big Tech isn’t alone in taking action to support Ukraine and strike back at Russia. BP and Shell said they would cut ties with two gas companies controlled by the Russian government, Rosneft and Gazprom. A Norwegian asset management firm said it would divest from Russian businesses. Even the public media union that produces Eurovision banned Russia from its singing contest this year. Photo source: medium.com