finally{}: Tech is Taking Sides

Throughout history, industries have stayed relatively neutral during wartime. Global companies especially may offer marketing-focused messages of hope and concern but keep their heads down and their tones neutral when faced with actually taking a stand against one side of a conflict. Per usual, though, the tech industry is happy to disrupt the status quo – not just taking a clear stand but putting their money and their talent where their mouth is.

Global industries have long been accused of profiting off of war by selling to all sides, especially those in manufacturing and raw materials. Tech companies around the world, though, are taking a defined stand and even putting aside opportunities to profit as they take sides in the current conflict between Ukraine and Russia.

SpaceX has donated Starlink Internet communications systems to keep people in Ukraine connected to the internet. AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Vodafone have all waived fees for services involving Ukraine – some waiving roaming charges for customers in Ukraine, some waiving international call fees for calls to and from Ukraine. Apple has halted all sales through its Russian online store, shut down Apply Pay access in Russia, and has disabled traffic and incident reports within Ukraine in Apple Maps. Google, likewise, has disabled live traffic reports for Ukraine in Google Maps, blocked Russian state-sponsored media channels on YouTube, and paused ad sales in Russia. Microsoft has stopped sales to Russia, and even Netflix has gotten involved, suspending their services in Russia.

Even companies just trying to carry on with business-as-usual are having trouble staying uninvolved. Despite not taking a public stand in the matter, Coinbase, Patreon, and many other fundraising, financial, and social media platforms have found themselves in the spotlight as their platforms are being used heavily to support various organizations involved in the Russia-Ukraine conflict. It is no longer easy to keep your head down and stay neutral.

Outside of work, the tech community is also getting involved. Over 300,000 programmers have volunteered to become an “IT Army” on behalf of Ukraine, taking down key Russian websites and online services through coordinated DDoS attacks, reporting disinformation on social media platforms, and creating digital marketing campaigns to bring awareness to the conflict. Anonymous has claimed credit for hacking Russia’s television networks to broadcast footage from Ukraine and for accessing the corporate systems of Rosatom, Russia’s state corporation for nuclear energy, after they claimed ownership of a Ukrainian nuclear power plant.

Regardless of the outcome of this conflict, it is no longer isolated and localized. People around the world are getting involved. Strangers are fighting together while sitting in their living rooms halfway around the world from each other. One thing is abundantly clear – tech has drastically changed the landscape of war.

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Originally published in “Testing The Core”, the April 2022 issue of php[architect] magazine.