As Russia’s military assault against Ukraine continues, Microsoft, Apple, Google, TikTok, Binance, SpaceX, Revolut, Airbnb and other tech giants are on hand to help, providing tech, internet, and housing support to Ukraine.For many years, Big Tech companies were just apolitical, staying out of battlefield actions. Now, businesses are actors in the conflict – major tech platforms are restricting access to certain technologies in Russia while social-networking sites are blocking Russian media and throttling anyone who shares it. Here’s how Big Tech is assisting Ukraine's war effort in eight ways.
Suspending business in Russia
As a demonstration of support for Ukraine, tech giants are exponentially pulling back from Russia. The number of Big Tech firms cutting ties with Russia is growing and now includes Microsoft, Apple, Accenture, Cisco, Oracle, and Dell among many others.
Although concerningly, this form of protest could complicate Big Tech companies' relationships with Russia, but it’s particularly notable given the high visibility of tech products and the outsized influence it wields as consumers are very addicted to these products, so cutting off tech products will have far-reaching consequences for ordinary Russians and overall IT infrastructure.
Apple paused its Apple Pay services in Russia, suspended advertising on its App Store, removed RT News and Sputnik News from the App Stores, on top of halting the sale of its products across Russia, following an appeal from Kyiv, which asked the consumer electronics giant to block Russians from accessing its app store because “modern technology is perhaps the best answer to the tanks, multiple rocket launchers (hrad) and missiles.”
TikTok blocked live-streaming and uploading of new content in Russia after the Kremlin criminalised the spreading of what it deems to be fake news about its invasion of Ukraine. “The safety of employees is our top priority,” said TikTok spokesperson Hilary McQuaide, adding that the video-sharing service part of China-based tech company ByteDance did not want to put either its Russian employees or users at risk of severe criminal penalties.
Netflix has suspended streaming in Russia entirely. Netflix did not specify a reason for suspending its services, saying the move reflected “circumstances on the ground”. The company had previously said it would refuse to air Russian state TV channels.
Blocking Kremlin-backed media
Big social networks, including Meta Platforms Inc.'s Facebook and Instagram, Twitter and Google-owned YouTube placed restrictions on Russian state-run media’s access to ad platforms and continue to fact-check posts deemed false.
Twitter started adding a more prominent label to all tweets of Russian state-affiliated media websites. “We’re committed to providing context and transparency around the content you see on Twitter. Today we’re adding labels on state media accounts in Belarus to better surface credible information surrounding the war in Ukraine,” the company said in a tweet.
Providing cyber protection
Google has provided protection against Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks for more than 100 Ukrainian websites, including local news services, blocked Youtube channels linked to Russian state-funded media, and enabled Google Maps airstrikes alerts.Microsoft similarly helped cybersecurity officials in Ukraine combat Russian cyber-attacks by providing threat intelligence and defense tactics. Microsoft also alerted Ukraine’s cyber-defense authority to a new form of malware aimed at the country’s ministries and financial institutions. Within hours of detection, Microsoft had updated its detection system to block the code.
Providing a satellite internet connection
After internet provision was interrupted during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, SpaceX helped to activate satellite internet service in Ukraine through its Starlink system, a satellite-based internet network that is designed to blanket the planet with high-speed broadband, a move that keeps the country connected to the web even as Russia attacks its websites.
Elon Musk says his satellite-internet service Starlink “is now active” in Ukraine and more of its dishes are “en route” following a request for help from the country’s deputy prime minister.
Halting transactions with Russia
Major fintech firms have become available for Ukrainians and stopped supporting money transfers to and from entities in Russia and Belarus, so users can no longer top up their accounts using cards issued by financial institutions in those countries.
Revolut, a $33 billion British neobank, is now available for Ukrainians in the EU, and has blocked payments to Russia and Belarus, joining a string of VISA, Mastercard and fintech firms such as Wise, Zepz, TransferGo and Remitly pulling out of the region.
PayPal similarly halted transactions in Russia and suspended their services in the country, and finally works now in Ukraine. Dan Schulman, president and chief executive for PayPal, said the company “stands with the international community in condemning Russia’s violent military aggression in Ukraine.”
Donating to Ukraine via crypto
Binance, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, for example, has committed US$10 million to help the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine through its Binance Charity Foundation. The donation will be split between major nonprofit organizations, including UNICEF, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, iSans and People in Need, to help support displaced children and families in Ukraine.
Binance has also launched a crypto-first crowdfunding site, called Ukraine Emergency Relief Fund to allow people to donate crypto for refugees. A donation of 16,042 BNB (US$6 million) has already been made by Binance. “We are proud to have been able to quickly rally our network to provide relief and support on the ground to those in need. This includes helping provide food, fuel, supplies and shelter for Ukrainians, which include countless Binance community members," said Changpeng Zhao, Founder and CEO of Binance.
Providing free housing
Airbnb launched free, short-term housing to up to 100,000 refugees fleeing Ukraine. For now, the housing offer is only available for eligible nonprofit organizations that help host refugees, and individuals in need of temporary housing in Poland, Slovakia, Moldova, Romania and Hungary can contact The International Organization for Migration (IOM) at email@example.com. The nonprofits book the homes with a special feature in check out that waives the booking fees. The entire cost of the stay is covered by Airbnb, donors to the Refugee Fund, the generosity of Hosts, the International Rescue Committee, HIAS, and Church World Service. Over 15,000 hosts have signed up through Airbnb.org to offer their homes for free or at a discount around the world.
HospitalitySupport similarly provides temporary hotel accommodation to Ukrainians, who are forced to leave their homes as a result of the war. The initiative connects families on the run from the war in Ukraine with hotels around Europe and beyond in 43 countries.