The recent illegal invasion of Ukraine by Russia has left the general population on both sides appalled. And while the West can’t do much when it comes to taking action on foreign soil, several big tech and social media companies have joined forces and decided to limit, or completely cut off Russia from their services.
Note: This story doesn’t mention any financial sanctions against Russia, and instead focuses solely on social media and big tech restrictions/limitations. This story will be updated with more information as it becomes available.
Niantic, the developer behind the 2016 Pokémon Go craze has announced that people in Russia and its ally Belarus would no longer be able to download Pokémon Go, Ingress, and Pikmin Bloom titles and those who have the games pre-installed would soon lose access.
We stand with the global community in hoping for peace and a rapid resolution to the violence and suffering in Ukraine. Niantic’s games are no longer available for download in Russia and Belarus, and gameplay will also be suspended there shortly.
— Niantic 🧭 (@NianticLabs) March 11, 2022
Sony announced on Wednesday, March 9th that it is suspending the sale of its consoles and software in Russia, along with shutting down its PlayStation Store for those accessing it from the nation. Sony is the latest to join other big video game companies, including EA and CD ProjektRed, in taking a stand against the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.
— PlayStation (@PlayStation) March 9, 2022
Samsung announced on Friday, March 4th that it is halting all product shipments to Russia in response to its illegal invasion of Ukraine, via Bloomberg. The move will stop shipments of all range of products, including semiconductors, mobile phones, TVs and more from going to Russia.
The move from the South-Korean company comes soon after Ukraine’s Vice Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov requested Samsung to take action against Russia and condemn its unprovoked aggression.
@Samsung, I urge you to take a step towards world peace! As long as Russian tanks and missiles bomb kindergartens and hospitals in Ukraine, your cool equipment cannot be used by Russians! pic.twitter.com/xjOInduclD
— Mykhailo Fedorov (@FedorovMykhailo) March 4, 2022
Update 03/07/2022 at 10:30am ET: Montreuil, France-based Ubisoft announced on Monday, March 7th that it is going to stop the sale of its products in Russia. In a statement given to bloomberg, the company said it is “suspending its physical and digital sales” in the country.
Update 03/05/2022 at 11:22am ET: In a blog post, Adobe president and CEO Shantanu Narayen confirmed that the company would halt all new sales of Adobe products and services in Russia. It’s also terminating access to Creative Cloud, Document Cloud and Experience Cloud to media outlets controlled by the Russian government.
Update 03/05/2022 at 10:35am: PayPal is the latest tech company to suspend services in Russia following the country’s “violent military aggression in Ukraine.” Ukraine’s Vice Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov tweeted a letter from PayPal CEO Dan Schulman that confirmed the decision to halt services altogether.
We received a letter from @Dan_Schulman, CEO PayPal. So now it’s official: PayPal shuts down its services in Russia citing Ukraine aggression. Thank you @PayPal for your supporting! Hope that soon you will open it in for 🇺🇦 pic.twitter.com/RaJxEMSLQe
— Mykhailo Fedorov (@FedorovMykhailo) March 5, 2022
It’s worth noting that PayPal stopped accepting new Russian users earlier this week, but the new decision goes further and includes PayPal-owned money transfer service Xoom.
Via: The Verge
Apple announced on Tuesday, March 1st that it has halted all product sales through its web store in Russia.
Heading to the Russian Apple website shows that all items, including iPhones, iPads, Macs, Apple Watch, AirPods and accessories are marked with “в настоящее время недоступно,” which translates to “currently unavailable.”
Further, Apple has disabled live traffic and live incident data from Apple Maps in Ukraine in a bid to safeguard the local population’s locations, in addition to removing Russian state-led news outlets RT News and Sputnik News from its App Store globally, except for those accessing the store in Russia.
Russians are also currently unable to use Apple Pay as the bank that facilitates the transactions in the nation — VTB has been hit with strict economic sanctions.
Reddit initially decided to “quarantine” (shadowban) its r/Russia and r/RussiaPolitics subreddits on Tuesday, March 1st in an effort to curb misinformation originating from threads posted by bad actors. Visiting the quarantined subreddit shows a message, stating “This community contains a high volume of information not supported by credible sources.”
Said subreddits were host to posts defending the invasion, and cherry-picking reasons to justify it, including discussions about Ukrainian soldiers being Nazis, the Ukrainian population spreading misinformation and using past war/training drill photos as current and other types of false propaganda.
Since then, Reddit has doubled down on its approach and decided to outright ban any and all links that direct to Russian state-supported media outlets, including RT and Sputnik and said that it will not allow any advertisements that “target Russia or originate from any Russia-based entity, government or private” on its platform.
The conflict happening in Ukraine is a human tragedy. The situation is evolving quickly, and while not a complete or final list of our efforts, these are some of the actions we're taking right now: https://t.co/UJCPffhAMc pic.twitter.com/dkh6lE0y5f
— Reddit (@Reddit) March 3, 2022
Netflix announced on Wednesday, March 2nd that it has decided to put all future projects it had undertaken in Russia on hold.
The Los Gatos, California-based streaming service had four Russian originals planned, including a Dasha Zhuk-directed crime thriller series that was in the works but has since been put on hold.
Further, Netflix was recently added to Russia’s list of ‘audiovisual services,’ and was due to oblige to new obligations starting March 1st. One of the new obligations was for Netflix to stream 20 Russian federal television stations. Since then, Netflix has responded and said that it won’t comply with the new rules.
“We are coordinating closely and working in lockstep with the governments of the United States, the European Union and the United Kingdom, and we are stopping many aspects of our business in Russia in compliance with governmental sanctions decisions,” Smith wrote.
Microsoft specifies that its decision will only affect “new sales.” It’s currently unclear what that could mean for current Windows, Office, Microsoft 365, Azure, and Xbox users in Russia.
EA, undoubtedly one of the biggest game developers and publishers out there announced that it is removing all Russian club and international teams from its FIFA and NHL titles.
The company announced its decision in simultaneous Tweets posted its FIFA and NHL accounts:
A statement from EA SPORTS FIFA: pic.twitter.com/v3pZvpblgS
— EA SPORTS FIFA (@EASPORTSFIFA) March 2, 2022
A statement from EA SPORTS NHL: pic.twitter.com/2uX4h55ok4
— EA SPORTS NHL (@EASPORTSNHL) March 2, 2022
The move from EA further’s the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF), Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) and Union of European Football Associations’s (UEFA) decision to kick out Russian international and club teams from real-world sports.
In addition, EA is ceasing all operations in Russia and will stop selling its games and content, including virtual currency bundles, in Russia and its ally Belarus. “our games and content will no longer be available for purchase in our Russian region storefront on Origin or the EA app, including through in-game stores. We are also working with our platform partners to remove our titles from their stores and stop the sale of new in-game content in the region,” reads EA’s statement.
Google and YouTube
Google condemns the unjust violence in Ukraine, and as a result, the Mountain View, California-based company has disabled the Live traffic layer, in addition to information on how busy restaurants and stores are from its for Google Maps. The move should deter Russian forces from spotting concentrations of the Ukrainian population, and the ones trying to leave the country but are stuck in long roadblocks on the location and navigation service.
Additionally, on Friday, March 4th Google suspended all of its ad sales in Russia. “In light of the extraordinary circumstances, we’re pausing Google ads in Russia,” the company said in a statement given to Reuters. “The situation is evolving quickly, and we will continue to share updates when appropriate.”
This applies to all of Google’s offerings, including Google Display Advertising, Google Search, Google News and YouTube.
YouTube previously blocked Russian state-backed media outlets like RT and Sputnik from earning ad revenue, but the new rule suspends said channels from running ads completely.
⚡️ @YouTube has disabled the monetization of Russia Today channels.
— Mykhailo Fedorov (@FedorovMykhailo) February 26, 2022
Meta-owned Facebook and Instagram
In response to the ongoing conflict, Meta has blocked state-run media accounts like Russia Today on both Facebook and Instagram in the EU, UK and Ukraine. While the ban only applies to those three regions, the media outlets have been shadowbanned globally. What this means is that the state-run accounts are still live and posting, their content will be severely demoted and not recommended to anyone.
Additionally, state-run media outlets can no longer run earn-through ads on all Meta-owned platforms globally.
1/ We are now prohibiting Russian state media from running ads or monetizing on our platform anywhere in the world. We also continue to apply labels to additional Russian state media. These changes have already begun rolling out and will continue into the weekend.
— Nathaniel Gleicher (@ngleicher) February 26, 2022
As a form of retaliation, the Russian government banned Facebook on Friday, March 4th, stating that the social media company had infringed the country’s rules by limiting, and in some cases, outright abolishing access to state-backed media.
On the Russian government's decision to block access to Facebook in the Russian Federation: pic.twitter.com/JlJwIu1t9K
— Nick Clegg (@nickclegg) March 4, 2022
Along with Meta and its subsidiaries, Twitter has also taken down Russian state-run media accounts in EU and Ukraine, and paused ads in both Ukraine and Russia “to ensure critical public safety information is elevated and ads don’t detract from it.” The Russian government has now blocked Twitter use in the country.
When using Twitter in conflict zones or other high-risk areas, it’s important to be aware of how to control your account and digital information.
Every situation is different, so here are some things to consider:
— Twitter Safety (@TwitterSafety) February 24, 2022
While Snapchat’s private format helps it avoid the spread of misinformation, and its Discover and Spotlight sections are pre-moderated, the Santa Monica, California-based company said that it will be swift to remove instances of misinformation regarding Ukraine or Russia on the platform if and when it finds any.
The company has stopped all advertising in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine and says it will stop advertising sales to all Russian and Belarusian entities. “We do not accept revenue from Russian state-owned entities,” reads its release.
We stand in solidarity with our Ukrainian team members and the people of Ukraine who are fighting for their lives and their freedom. War is a scourge on our collective humanity, and we pray for peace. https://t.co/xBKTQDqh2K
— Snapchat (@Snapchat) March 1, 2022
Russia Today, or similar Russian state-backed media outlets were never allowed to distribute content through Snapchat.
Snapchat is still available to users in Russia.
Update 03/07/2022 at 10:07am ET: After Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a new ‘fake news’ law, which threatens journalists will up to 15 years of jail time for spreading what the Kremlin considers to be ‘fake news.’
In response, TikTok, via its Twitter announced that it is disabling live streaming and new video uploads to its platform in Russia. “We have no choice but to suspend livestreaming and new content to our video service while we review the safety implications of this law,” reads the company’s Twitter post.
TikTok says that it is reviewing the new law to determine when “fully resume” its service while keeping its users safe.
1/ TikTok is an outlet for creativity and entertainment that can provide a source of relief and human connection during a time of war when people are facing immense tragedy and isolation. However, the safety of our employees and our users remain our highest priority.
— TikTokComms (@TikTokComms) March 6, 2022
TikTok announced on Monday, February 28th that it has geographically blocked access to Russian-state-run media outlets like Sputnik on its platform in the EU. The channels remain available and visible on TikTok for users outside the EU.
On Friday, March 4th, Nintendo announced that it has suspended payments via the Russian Nintendo eShop, which means users in Russia would no longer be able to purchase video games, DLC, or download free demos.
Visiting the website currently shows a message in Russian, which roughly translates to “Due to the fact that the payment service used in Nintendo eShop has suspended the processing of payments in rubles, Nintendo eShop in Russia is temporarily placed into maintenance mode.”
Warsaw, Poland-based CD Projekt Red announced in a Tweet on Thursday, March 3rd that it has decided to pause selling its games in Russia and Belarus. The developer states that it is working with its partners to suspend all digital sales and cease physical stock deliveries, along with halting its game sales through GOG.
“We know that players in Russia and Belarus, individuals who have nothing to do with the invasion of Ukraine, will be impacted by this decision,” reads CDProjekt Red’s statement. “With this action we wish to further galvanize the global community to speak bout what is going on in the heart of Europe.”
Poland, home of CDProjekt Red shares its border with Ukraine and Belarus.
— CD PROJEKT RED (@CDPROJEKTRED) March 3, 2022
Disney announced on Tuesday, March 1st that it will stop releasing its theatrical films in Russia.
“Given the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and the tragic humanitarian crisis, we are pausing the release of theatrical films in Russia, including the upcoming ‘Turning Red’ from Pixar,” a Disney spokesperson said in statement given to CNN. “We will make future business decisions based on the evolving situation.”
Canadian service providers
Several Canadian TV service providers, including Bell, Rogers, Telus, Shaw, Access Communication and VMedia have pulled the state-backed RT channel from their respective lineups.
We will also be asking the CRTC to begin the process of reviewing Russia Today’s presence on Canadian airwaves – because we cannot allow falsehoods, propaganda, and disinformation about Russia’s war to continue spreading in Canada.
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) February 28, 2022
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