How Tech Companies Are Responding To Russia’s Invasion Of Ukraine

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To the shock of most Ukrainians as well as most Russians, Vladimir Putin decided to invade Ukraine in recent days and topple its democratically elected government. Following years of propaganda and blatant gaslighting, the military operation recently shifted from being a “peacekeeping” force in a couple of eastern regions of Ukraine where fighting has been going on for years to marching miles upon miles of tanks to Kyiv to take over the city and overthrow the current democratically elected leaders of the country — reportedly aiming to assassinate Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the President of Ukraine.

Again, it doesn’t appear that most Russians wanted this invasion, and that it came as a shock to them almost as much as it has come as a shock to Ukrainians.

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There are unprecedented responses occurring around the world. All sorts of economic sanctions are being imposed on Russia and Russian oligarchs, growing military and humanitarian support for the people of Ukraine is pouring in, there is a move to add Ukraine to the EU, the UN General Assembly is holding its first emergency meeting since 1982 today, and Russia or Russian athletes have been barred from all sorts of sports competitions. Nonetheless, the tanks are still moving toward Kyiv and residential areas of other cities have suffered various attacks. More than 500,000 Ukrainians have fled the country for neighboring Poland, Slovakia, Romania, etc. — the vast majority of them being women and children.

Naturally, many are feeling horrible about what is happening and wondering how they can help. Johnna Crider wrote a bit about that yesterday, so check out that article if you missed it. What caught my eye since then is that tech giants have (somewhat surprisingly given their records of not having backbones) imposed their own versions of private-sector sanctions.

YouTube decided on the weekend to block ads on Russian state media, and Google soon followed, as NPR reports, “pausing” this significant monetization option for Russian state media. Furthermore, “A YouTube spokesperson said the company has removed hundreds of channels and thousands of videos over the past few days, including channels for coordinated deceptive practices,” CNN reports

Surprisingly, Meta (Facebook) was quicker to make a move. On Friday, Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of security policy, tweeted the following: “We are now prohibiting Russian state media from running ads or monetizing on our platform anywhere in the world.” Perhaps even more importantly and significantly, Facebook was fact-checking and labelling posts from state-controlled media and the Russian government ordered the company to stop doing so — particularly with regard to 4 state-owned media outlets. “We refused,” Meta global affairs president Nick Clegg said. As a result, on Friday, the Russian government partially restricted access to Facebook in the country. Russia’s Ministry of Communications claimed Facebook “violated the rights and freedoms of Russian citizens,” in typically twisted language given that Russia was in the process of invading its neighbor and clearly violating the rights and freedoms of Ukrainian citizens.

“In December, a Russian court fined Meta 2 billion rubles, or about $27 million, for failing to remove content that Russia says violates its laws.”

Twitter has not allowed state-controlled media to run ads on its service since 2019, but it decided on Friday that it wouldn’t be running any ads in Ukraine or Russia for the time being “to ensure critical public safety information is elevated and ads don’t detract from it.” It is also limited access to Twitter for some people in Russia — though, it’s not clear who.

Update: Just after publishing this article, CNN reported, “Twitter will now label all content that contains links to Russian state media and will demote that content algorithmically, the company said, as tech platforms have come under greater pressure to respond to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.”

Also, as Johnna wrote, SpaceX has provided Starlink devices to Ukraine.

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Zachary Shahan

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA], NIO [NIO], Xpeng [XPEV], Ford [F], ChargePoint [CHPT], Amazon [AMZN], Piedmont Lithium [PLL], Lithium Americas [LAC], Albemarle Corporation [ALB], Nouveau Monde Graphite [NMGRF], Talon Metals [TLOFF], Arclight Clean Transition Corp [ACTC], and Starbucks [SBUX]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.

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