Russia Ukraine War 2022: Tech companies show the way

Every war marks a turning point in history, recording stories of heroism and gallantry and leaving behind itself innumerable tales of miseries and misfortune. Each battle has its unique learning for the countries involved in the war and for the rest of the world directly and indirectly impacted. The same is true for the Russia Ukraine war 2022.

Such geopolitical tensions are a bigger risk to the global economy, impacting sectors like energy and commodities. The Russian-Ukranian war added a new chapter – the role of tech companies. Over the last couple of weeks the tech companies flaunted their power and have hit the headlines for all the right reasons.

Elon Musk: A hero for Ukrainians ever

Who would have imagined ever that Elon Musk will emerge as a ‘Hero’ for the Ukrainians in the war? Probably no one would have ever made that link before Musk made the Starlink possible for Ukrainians at a time when the country’s internet connection was disrupted because of the war.

Before the actual war, a severe cyberwar started with the Ukrainian government alleging that a cyberattack had hit the websites of Ukrainian government agencies and central banks. It wasn’t the first attack. Several such hacking operations happened. At least 10 Ukrainian websites stopped working due to DDOS attacks. They include Defence Ministry, Foreign Ministry, Culture Ministry, and Ukraine’sUkraine’s two largest state banks.

Soon after the war started, Ukraine suffered a huge disruption in internet connectivity. Notably, in the country’s southern and eastern regions, where combat has been the most intense. With the timely intervention from Elon Musk, whose Starlink satellite broadband service was made available in Ukraine helped the country navigate this challenge.

A few days back Ukraine’s President Zelensky invited Elon Musk to visit the country when the war with Russia is over. Mr. Zelensky was on a video call thanking the tech entrepreneur for supplying Starlink equipment to the country.

Tech Gaints: Leading by examples

The Tech giants have their significant presence both in Ukraine and Russia. Companies like Microsoft, Google, and Meta helped Ukraine by shutting down services to assist in cyber defense. Apple has decided to pull out from the Russian market. Market experts believe the company might lose at least $3 million in iPhone sales revenue daily or $1.14 billion annually.

“”We are deeply concerned about the Russian invasion of Ukraine and stand with all of the people who are suffering as a result of the violence,”” said a spokesperson for Apple to TechCrunch. “We are supporting humanitarian efforts, providing aid for the unfolding refugee crisis, and doing all we can to support our teams in the region.”

You always don’t need words to make your point. Or stand for something. Yet it could be strong enough to send the message you want to. During Apple’s major Peek Performance Event this Tuesday, CEO Tim Cook’s wardrobe choice almost surely sent a message. He was dressed in a blue sweater and a bright yellow Apple Watch band. Those are, of course, the colors of Ukraine’s national flag and a symbol of people’s support for the country.

Meta had announced earlier that it restricted access to Russian state-controlled media in Europe, including RT and Sputnik. It stated that it was taking these steps in response to “requests from a number of Governments and the EU”” about Russian state-controlled media.
Facebook and Instagram will begin removing information from Russian state-controlled media pages from their services. These pages had already been barred from monetizing their material on Facebook.

Time to repair reputation damage?

Some of the initiatives taken by the tech companies are worth mentioning. Their quick action, compassion, and the courage to make a decision will probably be future case studies. Such actions might impact their business and revenue in the long term but these initiatives will remain as outstanding examples of responsible business, solidarity, and leadership.

This conflict had probably provided tech companies like Facebook, Google, and Twitter to improve their reputations, which was much under question in recent years. Several governments have scrutinized these giants for data privacy breaches, market dominance, and polarizing the world by distributing toxic and divisive information.

For example, Google Maps was quick to stop displaying traffic information inside Ukraine out of concerns that it could create safety risks by showing where people were gathering. Facebook announced that it had taken down a pro-Kremlin influence campaign and a separate hacking campaign targeting its users in Ukraine.
Twitter began labeling all tweets containing links to Russian state-affiliated media outlets so users would be aware of the information sources.

Netflix announced that it would stop streaming video in Russia, TikTok and PayPal are not left behind. Spotify’s chief financial officer Paul Vogel has been quoted in the media that they are suspending its premium service there and expects to lose around 1.5 million paying subscribers as a result.

TikTok said in a tweet that in light of Russia’s new ”fake news’ law, we have no choice but to suspend live streaming and new content to our video service while we review the safety implications of this law. Our in-app messaging service will not be affected.

Moreover, several video game companies have stated that their games and materials will no longer be sold in Russia. The PlayStation division of Sony has halted all sales of its consoles and software in Russia and the launch of its racing game Gran Turismo 7. The PlayStation Store will also be unavailable in Russia.W

Start-Ups chose to be on the front

Unknown to many worldwide till recently, several renowned tech startups founders from Ukraine. For instance, Max Lytvyn and Alex Shevchenko, the Ukrainian-born founders of Grammarly, donated all of the net revenue earned from Russia and Belarus since the war started in 2014 through 2022 to support their motherland.

Over the past week, Grammarly has already given $1 million to Ukrainian humanitarian groups. Totango, a customer success business, has offered to move its Ukrainian staff, while others have provided financial assistance to employees affected by the crisis.

Ukraine’s tech diaspora in the Silicon Valley has tried to mobilize voices against Russia through several channels. From email campaigns to online petitions, they persuaded firms such as internet security company Cloudflare Inc, Alphabet Inc’sInc’s Google, and Amazon.com Inc to do more to counter Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Staying committed to responsible business

It is great to see tech companies going beyond business and supporting Ukraine and their citizens. Probably this was one of a chance, and indeed they have rendered all the support they could. They have never assumed this kind of spotlight ever in any geopolitical tensions. Above all, these initiatives will certainly go a long way in building meaningful relationship with their customers. And which company doesn’t crave for that?

Sevashree Mohapatra
A strategic Corporate Communication leader and technology enthusiast, I have more than 20 years of experience in content, corporate communication, and Strategy. Having worked in major media houses and MNCs like Hindustan Times, Ogilvy, ArcelorMittal, and Suez, I have helped brands to create value for their customers.