War in Ukraine puts Big Tech to the Test

By: Gadjo Sevilla

March 9, 2022

Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and the resulting war have put multinational technology companies to the test. Big Tech monoliths, which have the economic strength and global influence of nation-states, are finding themselves embroiled in a bigger conflict where they are expected to weigh in, take sides, and make decisions that could very well alter the course of history.

Big Tech’s first Big War

Half a month into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has seen various Big Tech companies stand with Ukraine and deliver economic sanctions against Russia;

  • Apple stopped selling products ins Russia and closed down stores and offices.
  • Google, TikTok, Snap, and Meta properties Facebook and Instagram suspended all advertising in Russia. Meta also set up response teams to sift through misinformation in their platforms as well as possible cyberattacks.
  • Microsoft is aiding the Ukrainian government by sniffing out cyberattacks as well as suspending sales in Russia.
  • AMD, Samsung, and PayPal also ceased shipments and shut down services.
  • Airbnb is allowing people to book vacations in Ukraine for the sole purpose of transferring funds to Ukrainian citizens.
  • Uber and Lyft have also stopped their service in Russia.
  • Google Maps has disabled features revealing people’s locations on Ukrainian maps.
  • SpaceX delivered Starlink terminals in Ukrainian cities to support satellite internet connectivity.

While the list of companies pressuring Russia to stop its war on the people of Ukraine, the unfortunate consequence of these tech embargoes is that Russian consumers are bearing the brunt of various service disruptions. It remains to be seen if the economic and connectivity outages will have a wider effect on Russia’s government and leadership.

A War Waged Online

The war in Ukraine is being waged on the ground in various cities where millions of civilians are forced to either flee their homes or stay and defend their country against a powerful and relentless occupying army.

This war is also being waged online, through cyberattacks, disinformation, and fake news in Russia, as well as on social media.

The PR war is also being waged in real-time through Twitter and Facebook. Heroic images of  Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in camo fatigues ready to rally troops and citizens filled screens and were followed by the picture of an isolated Vladimir Putin with his defense ministers cowering at the end of the table.

Social Distortion

This is also the first major war that’s being covered from the ground through social media, which now has more followers and participants than cable news TV networks. The worrying thing is that unlike newspapers, radio, or TV broadcasts, social media is unregulated and unfiltered free for all which is often misused for disinformation.

This puts pressure on technology companies owning these services to dig deeper and provide fact-checking or verification services, something that’s difficult to pull off at such a large global scale.

Big tech and content and social media companies are now scrambling to secure their platforms, protect their users, as well as sift through a never-ending deluge of disinformation.

These are challenges companies like Meta, Twitter, and Google may have difficulties wrestling with as the war intensifies.


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