Sanctions: Big Tech Limits Russian Media Activity to Aid Ukraine | Technology

The war in Ukraine has placed big technology companies at the center of the battle between the West and Russia over information management. Companies are taking measures to prevent the spread of false news and sensitive data that can compromise the security of Ukrainian citizens, especially after the message launched by the Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine, Mykhailo Fedorov, asking for help from Silicon Valley to stand up to the gigantic propaganda and espionage machinery of the Kremlin.

The American giant Meta (Facebook owner group) and the Chinese video platform Tik-Tok have announced the blocking of Russia Today and Sputnik in the EU following a request made by the community club to combat pro-Russian disinformation. The movement has come after pressure from the community authorities and some US politicians and the employees of some of these technology companies, who expect retaliation from Russia, which they consider to be censorship. Apple announced this Tuesday that it is also not possible to download the applications of these two media linked to the Kremlin in its online store, in addition to the fact that it has stopped selling all its products in Russia.

Meanwhile, Google has disabled real-time traffic data from Google Maps in Ukraine (which could reveal the location of civilians to the Russian military) and Twitter has temporarily suspended ads in the country.

EL PAÍS analyzes the response of the main technology companies to the conflict.

Google

On February 24, Russian President Vladimir Putin gave the order to invade Ukraine. That same day a team of researchers detected the entry of Russian troops into the country thanks to data from Google Maps and radar images, according Washington Post. The Mountain View company uses the location of mobile phones to show where there are traffic jams and the occupation of businesses and stores. But these data, in addition to providing information on the progress of the invasion, could also display information on Ukrainian civilians. So, in order to protect citizens, Google has disabled live traffic data from Google Maps in the country.

The tech giant has also paused the monetization of media financed by the Russian government on its platforms and claims “to be blocking ads related to this crisis. who seek to take advantage of the situation”. On YouTube, the company claims to have removed “hundreds of channels and thousands of videos” that violate its policies. “In response to a government request, we have restricted access to RT (the Russian state agency) already other channels in Ukraine. We will continue to monitor new developments and may take further action,” Google sources say.

Twitter

In the past week Twitter blocked some accounts reporting on the conflict in Ukraine. Given the criticism of several users on the social networkTwitter security chief Yoel Roth blamed the problem on “a small number of human errors”. Just a few days later, company sources say that their main priority “is to keep people safe.” “Just as we do around major world events, our security and integrity teams are monitoring possible risks associated with the conflict,” they indicate.

Among the measures that the platform has taken in response to the invasion, is the temporary suspension of announcements in Ukraine and Russia to prioritize public security information. From this Monday the technology will also add labels tweets that share links to websites of media affiliated with the Russian state. It has also activated an alert both in searches and in the timeline that takes users to a twitter moment with security and digital protection resources in English, Ukrainian and Russian.

In order to stop the spread of disinformation, the company ensures “proactively review tweets to detect any attempt to platform manipulation and take action against Fake and manipulated media content that present a false or misleading description of what is happening.” In theory, the technology is also keeping an eye on some journalists, activists, officials and government agencies “to mitigate any attempt to steal their accounts or targeted manipulation.”

Facebook

Russia has partially restricted access to Facebook after accusing the technology company of censoring its media. The head of global affairs at Meta (the company that encompasses Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram), Nick Clegg, He has explained his version on Twitter: “Yesterday, Russian authorities ordered us to stop independent fact-checking and labeling of content posted on Facebook by four Russian state media organizations. We refuse. As a result, they have announced that they will restrict the use of our services.”

Facebook has taken several measures in response to the invasion. Meta has confirmed that it will restrict access to the RT channel and the Sputnik agency, media affiliated with the Russian government, on its social networks – which include Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp – at the request of the European Union.

In addition, it has banned Russian state media from monetizing their content, has enabled a new feature in Ukraine that allows users to lock their profile. When you do, non-friends can’t download or share your profile picture or see your posts. “We have previously implemented this tool in other parts of the world to help protect people in situations that are not safe, for example in Afghanistan”, explains on Twitter Nathaniel Gleicher, head of security policy at facebook. The company has also temporarily removed the ability to view and search the friend lists of users in Ukraine.

In addition, it has established a special operations center staffed by experts — including native Russians and Ukrainians — “who monitor the platform 24 hours a day.” At the request of the Kiev government, the technology company has limited access to several accounts in the country, some belonging to Russian state media organizations. “We are also reviewing other government requests to restrict media controlled by the Russian state,” they explain from the company.

Manzana

Apple announced on Tuesday that it has stopped all sales of its products in Russia in response to the invasion of Ukraine and that the Apple Pay payment platform as well as other services have also been “limited”. In a statement, the company noted that last week both Russia Today and Sputnik were removed from the App Store for download and live traffic and incidents on Apple Maps in Ukraine were disabled “as a safety and precautionary measure for users.” Ukrainian citizens.

From the technological giant they have recalled that they also stopped exporting products to Russia.

Other technology

Among the companies that have supported the invaded country is Starlink. “While you are trying to colonize Mars, Russia is trying to occupy Ukraine. While your rockets are successfully landing from space, Russian rockets are attacking the Ukrainian civilian population. We ask you to provide Ukraine with Starlink stations and turn to sane Russians to stand up.” said Fedorov on Twitter to Elon Musk. Just a few hours later, the businessman replied that the Starlink satellite Internet service was already active in the country and that more terminals were on the way.

The Ukrainian deputy prime minister also has addressed on Twitter the cryptocurrency buying and selling platforms: “I am asking all major cryptocurrency exchanges to block Russian user addresses.” Some companies have listened to him. This is the case of DMarket, a platform for trading NFT items and the metaverse that has frozen the accounts of users from Russia and Belarus. But Ukraine’s war with technology does not end here. Fedorov has urged many other companies – such as Visa, MasterCard, viber and paypal— to stop offering some of its services in Russia.

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