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Tech companies cut ties with Russia over Ukraine invasion

Oracle, Google, Apple and Microsoft have all announced they will either scale back or entirely sever their operations in Russia.

(CN) — Silicon Valley is taking its gadgets out of Russia as more companies joined the exodus over Vladimir Putin's globally unpopular invasion of Ukraine. 

Oracle announced it would cease operations in Russia on Wednesday, becoming the latest major technology company in America to discontinue operations in the country that invaded its sovereign neighbor this past week. 

“On behalf of Oracle’s 150,000 employees around the world and in support of both the elected government of Ukraine and for the people of Ukraine, Oracle Corporation has already suspended all operations in the Russian Federation,” the company said in a tweet responding to Mykalia Fedorov, the vice prime minister of Ukraine. 

The news came a day after Apple said it would end all product sales in Russia in response to the Ukrainian invasion. 

"Last week, we stopped all exports into our sales channel in the country,” Apple said in a statement. “Apple Pay and other services have been limited. RT News and Sputnik News are no longer available for download from the App Store outside Russia. And we have disabled both traffic and live incidents in Apple Maps in Ukraine as a safety and precautionary measure for Ukrainian citizens."

Apple Pay’s suspension appears to have affected the ability of Russians to access the subway in major metropolitan areas, as many commuters were used to using smartphones to pay for fares. Google Pay has also been suspended since the United States has implemented sanctions against Russia that forbids companies from participating in the Russian economy. 

Google also said it was scaling back operations in Russia, announcing it would remove RT and Sputnik, two Russia-backed media companies, from its Google Play Store. 

“Consistent with the work we’ve described to reduce recommendations, pause monetization, and limit the reach of Russian state-funded media, mobile apps for Russian news channels RT and Sputnik are no longer available on the Play Store across Europe,” Google said in a statement. “Our teams continue to monitor the situation around the clock to take swift action.”

Google said it had begun removing the Russia-backed media channels from YouTube on Wednesday. 

Microsoft also announced it would remove state-sponsored media outlets from its app store, while deranking the news sources in its search engine Bing. 

Microsoft also said it was doing more to defend companies and other states from cyberattacks, given the sophisticated cyberwarfare techniques Russia has cultivated in the past decade.

“One of our principal and global responsibilities as a company is to help defend governments and countries from cyberattacks,” the company said in a statement. “Seldom has this role been more important than during the past week in Ukraine, where the Ukrainian government and many other organizations and individuals are our customers.”

Twitter has faced criticism for refusing to remove RT and Sputnik content from its platform, but it did commit to flagging tweets that come from state-sponsored sources and said it would comply with a European Union ban on content from the two media outlets if and when it takes effect. 

The company further said it has suspended or banned dozens of accounts originating in Russia. 

Some critics in the EU and the United States have pushed back on the moves, saying limitations to freedom of expression are not a viable way forward and run contrary to the democratic values espoused by the West and Ukraine. 

But EU officials have said the bloc's ban is temporary and would be lifted as soon as Russia discontinues its aggression against Ukraine. 

“Systematic information manipulation and disinformation by the Kremlin is applied as an operational tool in its assault on Ukraine. It is also a significant and direct threat to the Union’s public order and security”, said Josep Borrell, the EU’s foreign affairs and security policy chief.

The technology companies have been joined by major companies in other sectors, such as British Petroleum and Shell, to have cut ties to Russia during the geopolitical tensions. 

Follow @@MatthewCRenda
Categories / International, Technology

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