As the brutal Russian invasion of Ukraine has stretched into a third week, technology companies have stepped up to do what they can, taking business measures to punish Russia for the unprovoked attack.
It’s an approach recommended by former White House Russia Expert Fiona Hill in an interview with Politico when she said “Ordinary companies should make a decision. This is the epitome of ‘ESG’ that companies are saying is their priority right now — upholding standards of good Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance. Just like people didn’t want their money invested in South Africa during apartheid, do you really want to have your money invested in Russia during Russia’s brutal invasion and subjugation and carving up of Ukraine?”
Among the companies that are meeting this challenge are Apple, Google, SAP, Microsoft, Oracle, AWS, AMD, Intel, Cisco, Dell, HP, IBM, and Lenovo. The measures taken include cutting off sales to Russia, not taking on new business in Russia, providing additional resources to support Ukraine and its allies, and limiting the reach of Russian state-funded media.
For its part, Russia’s Kremlin has blocked social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, not allowing citizens of the country to access them. Facebook, acknowledging the special circumstances of citizens whose country has been invaded, made some exceptions to its policies against violent speech in posts, according to a Reuters report.
An executive at the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, Meta Platforms, clarified the temporary policy, saying that it is “focused on protecting people’s rights to speech as an expression of self-defense in reaction to a military invasion of their country. The fact is, if we applied our standard content policies without any adjustments, we would now be removing content from ordinary Ukrainians expressing their resistance and fury at the invading military forces, which would be rightly viewed as unacceptable.”
Here’s a look at what some other big tech companies have done.
Google initially paused Google ads in Russia and then followed up by pausing “the vast majority of our commercial activities in Russia — including ads on our properties and networks globally for all Russian-based advertisers, new Cloud sign ups, the payments functionality for most of our services, and monetization features for YouTube viewers in Russia.” Free services including search, Gmail, and YouTube continue to operate, Google said. However, the company has removed Russian state-sponsored media from search results in the EU, as well as removed their apps from Google Play. Google is also assisting with rapid Air Raid Alerts for Android phones in Ukraine and leveraging its investment in Poland to provide assistance with refugee support.
Microsoft said it would suspend new sales of Microsoft products and services in Russia. In addition, the company said it would coordinate with efforts of governments to stop other aspects of its business in Russia in compliance with government sanctions. Microsoft said that its most impactful area of work is in protecting Ukraine’s cybersecurity.
Amazon Web Services said it has suspended shipment of retail products to customers based in Russia and Belarus and cut off Prime Video in Russia. The company also says it has been working with Ukrainian customers to keep their applications secure. AWS noted that it has no data centres, infrastructure, or offices in Russia. The company will continue to work with relief organizations to provide humanitarian support.
IBM announced in a statement attributed to its CEO Arvind Krishna that the company has suspended all business in Russia. In addition, the company is offering various support to impacted employees, as well as donating $500,000 to organizations that are providing support to heavily impacted areas.
Technology company response
Many other technology companies, including chipmakers AMD, Intel, and Nvidia, have also suspended sales of products to Russia. Others are providing various types of technology aid to the Ukraine government, and still others are helping to fund relief efforts in refugee areas.
What to read next:
Kremlin’s Aggression Divides Digital Ecosystems Along Tech Trenches
Can Digital Resources Help in Wake of Ban on Russian Energy?
Digital War Chest: Crypto and Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine
Ukraine Fallout: Connectivity and Cloud Services Access in Flux