Tech companies respond to the Russian invasion

As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues to devastate Eastern Europe and stir unrest across the globe, many tech companies are finding ways to fight back against the Russian state. 


SpaceX sent a cargo of Starlink terminals to Ukraine on Feb. 28, 2022 in order to bolster the country’s cyber infrastructure and keep the country connected to the internet. Additionally, starting March 5, SpaceX reprioritized bolstering its cyber defense and signal jamming near conflict areas in Ukraine.


Alphabet Inc. has also taken an active approach. Google Maps was disabled in Ukraine after worries that traffic data could be a tool for the Russian military. 


Yandex, known colloquially as the Russian Google, has remained online. However, even that may be subject to change. As stated in a report issued March 4, the economic sanctions imposed on Russia could collapse the search engine’s ability to pay off its debts. Yandex handles roughly 60% of the country’s internet traffic, and hosts a ride-hailing business similar to that of Lyft. 


Liveuamap, a tool that many journalists and humanitarians use to follow the conflict, was the victim of a DDoS cyberattack March 1 for approximately 18 hours. A DDoS, or distributed denial-of-service attack, is a common cyberattack where computer bots pretending to be real people flood a website with so much traffic that the website crashes or becomes unusable. Think of a traffic jam where cars are stuck for hours on end, unable to move. 


While companies such as SpaceX and Alphabet took a more direct approach against the invasion of Ukraine, other tech companies have provided responses to the crisis in a tidal wave of restrictions.  


Visa and MasterCard have both suspended operations in Russia. While anyone issued a card from either of these companies will still be able to pay for products and services in Russia, the transactions will instead be processed by Russia’s national payment card system, not by Visa or MasterCard themselves. 


This comes on top of the block of Russian financial institutions after the U.S. issued financial sanctions against the country. The consequences from these actions are still unclear, however the strain this could bring to Russian financial institutions remains undeniable. 


The suspensions don’t stop there, with restrictions continuing to increase. To see a full list, Rest of World’s website displays all tech companies currently taking action against Russia, updated daily.


Microsoft issued a formal statement on Mar. 4, announcing that all new sales of Microsoft products and services have been suspended in Russia. Apple has also suspended all product sales in Russia, as well as severely limiting the use of Apple Pay and access to Russian state media apps.


Many media companies—both social and streaming—also took action against Russian state-backed media outlets. 


Meta has continued to fact-check Russian media outlets despite the country’s division over censorship within the platform. Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Snapchat have all restricted monetization features for ads in Russia, and prevented Russian state media from running ads on their platforms.


Netflix, TikTok, Roku, Spotify and Reddit have all prevented Russian state-sponsored media outlets from either being viewed or linked to. Even Blizzard—a company that has not been known for its moral high ground—has suspended all video game sales in Russia, along with Epic Games and Poland-based publisher CD Projekt.


All of these restrictions combined isolate Russia to a degree never before seen with such a technologically advanced country. 


Ultimately, it is the people of Russia who will be suffering the most because of the actions of their leader—actions that many within the country disagree with. What is clear, and perhaps most painful, is how heavy a price is paid for a war that the people of Russia did not even want. 


Editor’s Note: This story is ongoing and is subject to change.