Big Tech’s efforts to support Ukraine are reshaping the role of industry in times of war

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Ukrainian military vehicle in Kiev. Big Tech companies became active participants in the conflict, helping Ukrainians and limiting the Russian state media.

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Big Tech replied to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine By offering assistance to Ukrainians, obstructing the Russian disinformation campaign and disinformation services that the Moscow army can use on the ground, this makes industry a de facto participant in the hostilities.

At the request of the Ukrainian government, the SpaceX rocket company activated satellite website in Ukraine through its Starlink system, traffic that keeps the country connected to the network even as Russia attacks its websites. AirBnb has offered free housing to Ukrainians escaping the fighting and the US telephone operators resigned from fees for customers who need to call Ukraine.

Large social networks, including Facebook’s Meta owner, Twitter and Google owned YouTube, are tackling known questions about dealing with disinformation and propaganda. All three put restrictions on Russian state media access to advertising platforms and continue to check the facts of posts found to be false. Microsoft and Google have limited downloads of Russian state-owned media services from their app stores.

Separately, Google has disabled the feature that displays road conditions in the widely used Maps application after consultation with the Ukrainian government. This move could make it difficult for Russian troops to navigate. The government in Kiev also called on Apple to block the Russians’ access to it app store because “modern technology is perhaps best answer to tanksmany rocket launchers (hrad) and missiles. “

Actions taken by Big Tech companies indicate the changing level of involvement of corporations involved in the global conflict. While industry has always played a role in warfare, companies have often not engaged in action on the battlefield. Now companies are involved in the conflict.

“They actually shoot,” said Matthew Schmidt, professor of national security at New Haven University. “It’s very different.”

Technology companies have long struggled to respond to disinformation and disinformation during elections and protests. State-sanctioned violence, such as: Rohingya Muslim genocide in Burma, he made even tougher decisions for companies responding to how their platforms are being used.

And not every call for help found support from the tech sector. Patreon, fundraising service, suspended the fundraising campaign for Ukrainian military training because it violated the policy against “financing arms or military activities”.

Jennifer Grygiel, associate professor at Syracuse University who studies social media and foreign policy, says the notorious nature of the war between Ukraine and Russia puts even more emphasis on corporate policy. Technology companies serve state-owned media around the world and their decisions to make content more or less relevant are critical.

Facebook, YouTube, and other companies are also able to decide which government content can be monetized through advertising, a common practice on social media. In other cases, social media companies label some official content as disinformation, decisions that could upset these governments.

Decisions can make the relationship between companies and the countries in which they operate irritable. But companies may have no choice but to act.

Meta did just that on Monday.

The huge social media company said yes: ban RT and Sputnik, two of the most important Russian outward-facing media weapons across the European Union, at the request of some governments. Nick Clegg, former UK vice prime minister who oversees global affairs at Meta, said the company was taking this step because of the “unique nature of the current situation”.

The move follows European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s weekend call for a bloc of 27 countries to ban Russian state media because of “toxic and harmful disinformation“.

“We’ve now got to the point where what Russia has done is so bad that it highlights the abuse of propaganda on these platforms,” ​​said Grygiel.

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