Apple serves a big blow to Russia as global tech response growsVish Gainon March 2, 2022 at 08:21 Silicon RepublicSilicon Republic


Apple has joined the global tech response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine with some of the harshest measures of any US tech company, including stopping the sale of its products in Russia.

In an emailed statement yesterday (1 March) seen by multiple media outlets, Apple said it was “deeply concerned” about the Russian invasion of Ukraine and stands with the people who are suffering as result of the violence.

Other than halting product sales, these sweeping measures include removing the RT and Sputnik apps from its App Store globally – a step further from companies such as Google and Microsoft, which have removed them in the EU only.

The iPhone maker has also disabled both the traffic and live features in Apple Maps for Ukraine “as a safety and precautionary measure for Ukrainian citizens” and limited some of its other services, including Apple Pay, in Russia.

“We are supporting humanitarian efforts, providing aid for the unfolding refugee crisis, and doing all we can to support our teams in the region,” the company added in the statement.

In the immediate aftermath of the invasion, Apple CEO Tim Cook tweeted to extend his support for the Ukrainian people and said that he was “thinking of the people who are right now in harm’s way and joining all those calling for peace”.

I am deeply concerned with the situation in Ukraine. We’re doing all we can for our teams there and will be supporting local humanitarian efforts. I am thinking of the people who are right now in harm’s way and joining all those calling for peace.

— Tim Cook (@tim_cook) February 25, 2022

However, the company stopped short of giving in to Ukrainian vice prime minister Mykhailo Fedorov’s request to block access to the App Store to Russian citizens.

“If you agree to have the president-killer, then you will have to be satisfied with the only available site Russia-24,” Fedorov tweeted, referring to the state-owned news TV channel in Russia.

Snap, Google, Meta and others

US social media company Snap, the creator of Snapchat, also chimed into the global response with a strong statement and set of measures in response to Russia’s aggressions.

The company, whose animated lenses feature on Snapchat was built by Ukrainian company Looskery that it acquired in 2015, said that it was halting all ads in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine.

Snap also said that it does not have an office in Russia and is complying with all sanctions targeting Russian businesses and individuals. It also announced $15m in humanitarian aid “to support organisations providing relief in Ukraine”.

“[Ukraine] has been the home of more than 300 of Snap’s most creative and talented team members,” the company wrote in a statement. “We stand in solidarity with our Ukrainian team members and the people of Ukraine who are fighting for their lives and for their freedom.”

Google also announced yesterday new measures it was taking in response to the Ukraine crisis, including $15m in donations and updating new features on its services to help Ukrainian civilians.

The company said it has updated Google Search to include an SOS alert across Ukraine, meaning that “when people search refugee and evacuation information, they will see an alert pointing them to United Nations resources for refugees and asylum seekers”.

Google Maps now also comes with information on refugee and migrant centres in neighbouring countries such as Poland, Moldova, Hungary, Slovakia and Romania.

The Alphabet-owned company also said it has also cracked down on disinformation campaigns and bolstered its security efforts for services in the region, making Google accounts more secure as Ukraine is subjected to cyberattacks from Russia.

Fedorov, who is also the minister for digital transformation in Ukraine, called on Spotify and Apple music in a tweet yesterday to allow Ukrainian artists to change their album covers “to draw attention to the bloody war in Ukraine”.

He has also asked the head of DNS overlord ICANN to disable country code top-level domains associated with Russia, in an effort to stop the country from using the internet to spread “propaganda and disinformation”.

One ICANN-accredited domain registrar, Namecheap, has already taken bold steps to end its services for Russian customers citing its “war crimes”, with the exception of anti-regime media, protestors and Russian expats.

Apple CEO Tim Cook speaking in June 2018. Image: Fortune Photo/Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

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