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Tech Companies Have A Responsibility To Stay In Russia

The Ukraine-Russia conflict has seen major companies from all over the world pull operations from the invading nation in support for Ukraine and its people. Alongside widespread trade sanctions set by nations globally, companies such as McDonalds and Mastercard have suspended activity and shipments in Russia, to pressure the Kremlin and draw attention to the severity of their invasion.

However, tech companies have a slightly different moral dilemma to face. There is a fine line for them between pressuring the Putin government by withdrawing support and leaving the Russian public without access to real news.

The Kremlin have instructed local media outlets to refer to the conflict as a “special military operation” in an attempt to hide the reality of the issue from their people.

Political communication lecturer from the University of Glasgow Joanna Szostek stated ““I think tech companies are different from other companies doing business in Russia, because we do have a clear interest in having them stay.”

While she encouraged western businesses to reduce operations and make their products unavailable, she believes that companies such as Google and Meta who are responsible for providing information of current events for so many people have a moral responsibility to keep Russia connected.

Credit: Yuri Kochetkov/EPA

Technology companies have had to very carefully balance their role in connecting people from around the globe and preventing misinformation, and with this conflict, this is more important than ever.

“I think there’s a very strong case for trying to do everything possible to keep those accessible for as long as possible,” said Szostek.

“And if that means sort of continuing to do some kind of business in Russia, then so be it. Because the idea of Russia getting completely trapped behind a sort of wall with no information at all getting through, I mean, it’s quite terrifying really, how dark that place could become.”

This moral dilemma is not dissimilar to the service companies such as Meta and Google play around times of federal elections, where distinguishing between fake information and political propaganda greys and is hard to control.

While many in Ukraine have requested these tech companies to pack up operations in Russia in opposition to their invasion, they do indeed have a responsibility to educated and keep the Russian people free to learn the truth.

In response to their hate speech policy that allowed Ukrainian people to express anger and violence towards Russia, the Putin government banned use of Instagram in Russia. While they said that this was because they believed it would result in their people being bullied and attacked online, Instagram was also a platform that is unable to be used as a vessel for propaganda.

In response to the Kremlins control over Russian viewership, VPN downloads have reached record highs in the Ukraine, with highs of 11,253% of the usual rate.

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