The shocking invasion on February 24th, 2022 which shook Ukraine, and the world, Ukrainian officials have gained support of leaders from nations across the globe. While Russia launched missiles on residential neighborhoods, Ukrainian government looked for a way to fight back beyond the defense of their nation. To fight back against Putin himself, smashing Russia’s digital connectivity. The result has developed into one of the most intensely sanctioned situations against a single entity.
Big Tech has waged a digital war on Putin, as their virtual sanctions began appearing Saturday, following the invasion of Ukraine on Thursday February 24th, 2022. What began with Elon Musk’s Starlink activation throughout Ukraine, has quickly developed into a stance of solidarity. While these efforts directly affect Putin’s ability to effectively rule his own citizens it places an even greater strain on the Russian citizens who have already been tossed aside by their leader as collateral damage to Putin’s personal greed for Ukraine.
Big Tech’s War Against Putin
As Putin’s war drags on, Ukrainian Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Digital Transformation of Ukraine, Mykhailo Fedorov has called upon Big Tech to launch a frontal assault on the entire Russian Federation. This includes banning Russian and Belarusian citizens from using American social media services, applications, digital products, cryptocurrency, even credit and debit cards. The hope is that Russian citizens will speak against their government and stop supporting the “outrageous aggression” of Russian President Putin on the Ukrainian people.
“In 2022 modern technologies are one of the best response to tanks, rockets and missiles. I’ve addressed to the biggest tech giants to support the sanctions for Russian Federation. We asked them to help us stop this outrageous aggression on our people1!”Mykhailo Fedorov – Vice Prime Minister of Ukraine
“Ukrainian crypto community is ready to provide a generous reward for any information about crypto-wallets of Russian and Belarusian politicians and their surroundings. War crimes must be pursued and punished! To share info please contact in Telegram: https://t.me/ArtemAf.”Mykhailo Fedorov – Vice Prime Minister of Ukraine
“Our goal is not to block the informational sources for Russians, but to engage youth, proactive and smart people. Your tsar leads you to nowhere. You should act now! I’ve contacted Meta on blocking Facebook and Instagram for citizens of Russian Federation.”Mykhailo Fedorov – Vice Prime Minister of Ukraine
Mykhailo Fedorov confirmed Twitter’s support to Ukraine, blocking all Russian citizens from creating new accounts, calling again on Meta platforms to join in the fight. Netblocks, and internet monitoring organization also confirmed that Twitter had restricted multiple providers in Russia.
“Twitter just made the decision to block Russians the opportunity to register new accounts in Russian Federation. Thanks for support! Waiting for Facebook and Instagram to join.”Mykhailo Fedorov – Vice Prime Minister of Ukraine
“⚠️ Confirmed: Live metrics show that Twitter has been restricted on multiple providers in #Russia as of 9:00 a.m. UTC; the incident comes as the government clashes with social media platforms over policy in relation to the #Ukraine conflict2 📉”Netblocks – Internet Monitoring Organization
February 27th, 2022
On February 27th, Fedorov called on Mark Zuckerberg to ban access to both Facebook and Instagram, due to the occupancy of Russian military vehicles, and the attacks. The Ukrainian Prime Minister stated that Putin’s missile attacks had targeted residential areas, striking Ukrainian kindergartens and Ukrainian hospitals.
Nick Clegg the VP for Global Affairs at Meta, stated the war in Ukraine was “devastating.” He stated that the company was taking necessary steps to restrict access to their services, however stated they did not want to ban Russian residents from access to communication during these “crucial times.”
Vice Prime Minister of Ukraine responded, thanking Nick Clegg for his actions. Fedorov announced this was the “first step in countering the bloody military attack against Ukraine. There is no place for war criminals in the Metaverse.” On Sunday Netblocks, announced that Facebook servers were now restricted on Russia’s leading internet providers, following Putin’s invasion.
“Mark Zuckerberg, while you create Metaverse — Russia ruins real life in Ukraine! We ask you to ban access to @facebookapp and @instagram from Russia — as long as tanks and missiles attack our kindergartens and hospitals3! @Meta”Mykhailo Fedorov – Vice Prime Minister of Ukraine
“The war in Ukraine is devastating and our teams at Meta are taking a number of steps in response, detailed here4: Read the full report”Nick Clegg – VP Global Affairs, Meta
“We have been in contact with the government of Ukraine. At their request, we have restricted access to several accounts in Ukraine, including those belonging to some Russian state media organizations. We are also reviewing other government requests to restrict Russian state controlled media.”Nick Clegg – VP Global Affairs, Meta
“We are also reviewing other Government requests to restrict Russian state controlled media. In the meantime, we will continue to label and fact check these outlets as well as prohibit ads and demonetize their accounts globally5.”Nick Clegg – VP Global Affairs, Meta
“The Ukrainians have also suggested that we remove access to Facebook and Instagram in Russia. However, people in Russia are using FB and IG to protest and organize against the war and as a source of independent information6.”Nick Clegg – VP Global Affairs, Meta
“The Russian Government is already throttling our platform to prevent these activities. We believe turning off our services would silence important expression at a crucial time.”Nick Clegg – VP Global Affairs, Meta
“We’ve already noticed @Meta decisions on blocking Russian propagandists and media outlets. @nickclegg, thanks for your actions and this very first step in countering the bloody military attack against Ukraine. There is no place for war criminals in Metaverse.”Mykhailo Fedorov – Vice Prime Minister of Ukraine
“⚠️ Confirmed: Facebook content servers are now restricted7 on #Russia’s leading internet providers; the incident comes shortly after the restriction of Twitter as Russia clashes with social media companies over the invasion of Ukraine8 📉”Netblocks – Internet Monitoring Organization
NFT & Virtual In-game Items, Metaverse
DMarket, “a Ukrainian-born startup” announced their decision to cut all ties with Russia and Belarus due to the invasion of Ukraine. This means new users from Russia and Belarus are banned from creating new accounts. Existing accounts of previously registered users from the Russian Federation and Belarus have been frozen. In addition, the Russian Ruble is completely removed from the platform altogether. This may be the first instance of banning entities from the metaverse simply for their citizenship.
“Ukrainian-born startup DMarket cuts all relationships with Russia and Belarus due to the invasion of Ukraine.
“- The registration on the platform is prohibited for users from Russia and Belarus;”
“- Accounts of previously registered users from these areas are frozen;”
“- All assets and skins remain on user accounts, but access to their use is currently limited;”
“- Russian Ruble is removed from the platform9.”
“P.S. If your account was frozen by mistake or you are not a citizen of Russia or Belarus – go through the KYC to confirm this and we will open your account back again.”DMarket – NFT & Virtual In-game Items, Metaverse
“Received breaking news. @dmarket, a platform for trading NFT & In-game Metaverse items, decided to freeze the accounts of users from the Russian Federation and Belarus. Funds from these accounts could be donated to the war effort. Nowadays Robin Hoods. Bravo10.”Mykhailo Fedorov – Vice Prime Minister of Ukraine
Aside from placing virtual sanctions on the Russian population simply for being a citizen of the Russian Federation or Belarus, DMarket has actively raised $7,271,030 through an official crypto fundraising campaign which it has donated11 to Ukraine’s Defense, through Mykhailo Fedorov12.
Fedorov requested Google stop providing services and products to the Russian Federation. “We are sure this will motivate proactive [russian] youth to stop this war!” As a result, Google removed stated-owned Russian media RT News [Russia Today] from the Google Play Store in Ukraine. Google also enlisted YouTube to join in the battle against Putin, announcing YouTube had demonetized RT News channels from their network. This is the first of what could be many Russian YouTube channels financially effected by Putin’s actions.
“I’ve addressed the @Google to stop supplying Google services and products to Russian Federation. Including blocking access to Google market and Google Pay. We are sure this will motivate proactive youth to stop this war13!”Mykhailo Fedorov – Vice Prime Minister of Ukraine
“We intend to help Russians and the world to know the truth. I’ve contacted @YouTube to block the propagandist Russian channels — such as Russia 24, TASS, RIA Novosti. If they are afraid of speaking the truth, so we should stop this flow of poisonous lies14.”Mykhailo Fedorov – Vice Prime Minister of Ukraine
“ℹ️ Confirmed: App analytics data show that the #Russia state-owned media outlet RT has been removed from the Google Play Store in #Ukraine. The takedown is at the request of the government in Kyiv. RT remains available on Apple’s App Store15.”Netblocks – Internet Monitoring Organization
“@YouTube has disabled the monetization of Russia Today channels.16”Mykhailo Fedorov – Vice Prime Minister of Ukraine
Mykhailo Fedorov called on Apple’s Tim Cook to block the Apple Store for citizens of the Russian Federation. He warned that those who allow Putin to rule their lives should be satisfied with state-owned media like “Russia 24.”
“I’ve contacted @tim_cook, Apple’s CEO, to block the Apple Store for citizens of the Russian Federation, and to support the package of US government sanctions! If you agree to have the president-killer, then you will have to be satisfied with the only available site Russia 2417.”Mykhailo Fedorov – Vice Prime Minister of Ukraine
Tim Cook responded voicing his “deep concern”, stating he was doing all he could to support local humanitarian efforts. He joined in the call for peace, stating his thoughts were with the Ukrainian victims.
“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 peace18.”Tim Cook – CEO, Apple
Despite Apple opening a new corporate office in Russia in February19, U.S. sanctions have restricted Apple Pay, according to reports20,21.
Fedorov asked telecommunications company Viber, to block their services in Russia. Viber responded stated that the company was closely monitoring the Ukraine and Russia situation, stating that the company hoped both sides could reach a peaceful resolution. In addition Viber offered Ukrainian citizens a coupon for 60 minutes of talking time to call any phone number in over twenty countries.
“We are constantly working on development of aggressor’s isolation! I’ve contacted the CEO of Rakuten (@Viber) and @PayPal on blocking their services in russia. Youth and thinking russians, you better wake up22!”Mykhailo Fedorov – Vice Prime Minister of Ukraine
“We are closely monitoring the #Ukraine / Russia situation and are looking to ensure that all users can continue to communicate freely with loved ones and access information. We hope to see a peaceful resolution and the continued safety of our users, colleagues and their families23.”Viber
“It’s important to us that you have the ability to contact loved ones, even if their internet is blocked or damaged. Use our ‘Stay Safe’ coupon for 60 minutes on Viber Out to call any landline or mobile number in over 20 countries24.”Viber
Ukraine has also asked Netflix to participate in the Russian boycott, cutting off the streaming service, in an effort to turn the citizens against the Russian government.
“We’ve also asked @Netflix for the support. We appealed to them to block the Russian Federation’s access to Netflix and shut off Russian content. We believe you do care. Let’s stop this disgraceful bloody war25!”Mykhailo Fedorov – Vice Prime Minister of Ukraine
Ukraine also attempted to disrupt Russian and Belarusian citizens’ finances, in an effort to stop Putin from gaining any further traction in Ukraine. The Vice Prime Minister spared no expense, stating his intentions were not only to target the Russian and Belarusian politicians, but also “sabotage ordinary users.” Fedorov’s hope was that the impact to Russia’s economy would be enough to make the Russian President withdraw his forces. Despite the sanctions against the Russian population, Putin continues to advance on Ukraine, without regard for the well-being of his own people.
“I’m asking all major crypto exchanges to block addresses of Russian users. It’s crucial to freeze not only the addresses linked to Russian and Belarusian politicians, but also to sabotage ordinary users26.”Mykhailo Fedorov – Vice Prime Minister of Ukraine
Visa & Mastercard
“Russia started a disgraceful war in my country! In 2022 cruise missiles target residential neighborhoods, kindergartens and hospitals. I address @Visa and @Mastercard to block their services on all cards issued within the Russian Federation @VisaNews @MastercardNews”Mykhailo Fedorov – Vice Prime Minister of Ukraine
Russia will soon be placed in the position where its citizens will be forces to rely on Russian social media applications, digital payment systems, and telecommunication technology. As more and more sanctions are imposed on the Russian Federation, citizens will soon be forced to turn to other digital providers. If Putin proceeds to occupy Ukraine indefinitely, this drastic shift in technology could become an indefinite situation.
Without international support for telecommunication technologies, Russians will be forced to rely on social media platforms like VK, and other Russian owned organizations. Russian news platforms will be limited to state-owned media outlets like Russia 24 and RT News, deceiving the local population of internationally independent media and information. In time, Russia will also be forced to produce their own telecommunication devices, such as Russian iPhones. Putin possibly gaining support from Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to use minority slave labor to purchase imported products, despite international sanctions. Putin’s actions placed Russia’s foreign trade on the backburner, along with technological advancements. If peace does not ensue between Russia and Ukraine, Russian citizens may soon find themselves forced to replicate the system used by Chinese residents under Xi’s authoritative communist rule, using VPN’s to illegally bypass sanctions allowing functional communication through existing platforms.
Imperialism is dead. The responsive actions of technology companies show that modern offensive warfare has become an obsolete practice, one that can be quickly subdued. As Putin’s war continues, the citizens of both waging nations remain the ones most effected. While Putin aims to take Ukraine, he is losing everything of value in the process. Putin is no longer seen as an equal in the eyes of world leaders. The debilitating strike to prevent Russian access to telecommunication technology, and the revocation of financial tools such as PayPal will send Russia’s economy into a downward spiral. If Putin continues to advance citizens will soon be forced to rely on Russian social media and Russian technology, as the international community places heavy limitations on the country. The sad result is that these sanctions are more detrimental to the Russian civilians, and less impactful to the tyrannical oligarchs seeking domination of Ukraine. While the Russian military are simply following orders to invade Ukraine, their actions have begun to destroy their friends and families lives inside their own country, where they will return to after fighting. Will Big Tech’s virtual sanctions continue to impede the free flow of information and international communication throughout Russia and Belarus?