CEO Tim Cook speaks at an Apple event at the company’s headquarters in Cupertino, California, September 10, 2019.
Stephen Lam | Reuters
Silicon Valley’s biggest technology companies have made it harder for people in Russia to access some of the most widely used technologies in the world as President Vladimir Putin continues his invasion of Ukraine.
Many of the actions have been taken in line with sanctions that have been imposed by the US government.
Apple got the ball rolling on Tuesday when it announced it was halting sales in Russia on iPhones, iPads, MacBooks, Macs and all other products.
“They’re leading from the front on it,” CCS Insight Chief Analyst Ben Wood told CNBC, adding that it puts pressure on rival firms to follow.
The Cupertino-headquartered firm also said that it removed Russian state-backed media outlets RT News and Sputnik News from its App Store around the world except for Russia.
Google has removed both news outlets from its Play Store in Europe too.
The Mountain View search giant told CNBC on Friday that it is also suspending all advertising in Russia.
The decision comes after Russia’s internet watchdog, Roskomnadzor, accused YouTube, a division of Google, of running large ad campaigns to misinform Russians about the country’s invasion of Ukraine.
“In light of the extraordinary circumstances, we’re pausing Google ads in Russia,” a Google spokesperson said.
“The situation is evolving quickly, and we will continue to share updates when appropriate,” they added.
Meanwhile, home-sharing platform Airbnb, said it is suspending all operations in Russia and Belarus.
Brian Chesky, the company’s CEO and co-founder, announced the move on Twitter late on Thursday, three days after Airbnb said it will offer free, temporary housing for up to 100,000 refugees fleeing Ukraine.
Further up the West Coast in Redmond, Washington, Microsoft is also retreating from Russia.
Microsoft President Brad Smith said in a blog Friday that the company will “suspend all new sales of Microsoft products and services in Russia” and stop “many aspects of our business in Russia in compliance with government sanctions decisions”. Microsoft did not clarify how and if it plans to continue supporting existing customers in Russia.
The question now is how much further will the tech giants go?
Earlier this week, Mykhailo Fedorov, Ukraine’s deputy prime minister, called on Apple CEO Tim Cook to finish the job and block App Store access in Russia.
He also urged Microsoft’s Xbox and Sony’s PlayStation to stop supporting Russian markets and “temporarily block all Russian and Belorussian accounts.”
Meta has said it hopes to stay online in Russia so that it can help counter the propaganda that is being shared on its platform.
“We believe turning off our services would silence important expression at a crucial time,” Nick Clegg, recently named the company’s vice president of global affairs, wrote on Twitter Sunday.
Chinese tech companies, meanwhile, have been notably quiet. Companies including Huawei, Xiaomi and Alibaba declined to comment when contacted by CNBC about whether they would cut their business in Russia.
TikTok, which is owned by Beijing-based ByteDance, is one of the only Chinese companies to have taken some action. TikTok said it would restrict access to RT and Sputnik in the European Union.