With the war in Ukraine ongoing, Google today detailed its company-wide response to the conflict with a focus on the “safety and security of our employees, users, and customers.”
Update 3/23: Google News has been blocked in Russia by the country’s Roskomnadzor communications regulator (via Reuters). This includes the mobile apps and website, with the company confirming that the lack of access is not due to technical issues on its end:
“We’ve worked hard to keep information services like News accessible to people in Russia for as long as possible.”
Google’s news aggregator was blocked for linking to information that Russia claims is “inauthentic” about the war in Ukraine.
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Update 3/11: Google announced this morning that it is “blocking access to YouTube channels associated with Russian state-funded media globally. This was originally just a measure in Europe, and is in the process of rolling out. YouTube is additionally “removing content about Russia’s invasion in Ukraine that violates” its policy of “denying, minimizing or trivializing well-documented violent events.”
Since our last update, our teams have now removed more than 1,000 channels and over 15,000 videos for violating not only our hate speech policy, but also our policies around misinformation, graphic content and more.
Outside of the video service, Google has “paused the vast majority of our commercial activities in Russia.” This includes ads on its properties and networks globally for all Russian-based advertisers, new Google Cloud sign-ups, payments functionality for services (as seen with the Play Store), and monetization features for YouTube viewers in Russia.
That said, its major consumer services are still operating in Russia, with the government making no move to block services:
We can confirm that our free services such as Search, Gmail and YouTube are still operating in Russia. We will continue to closely monitor developments.
Google is in the processing of rolling out air raid alerts directly into Android.
Update 3/3: The company has stopped selling ads in Russia. According to Reuters, this covers Search, YouTube, and other partners:
“In light of the extraordinary circumstances, we’re pausing Google ads in Russia,” the company said in a statement. “The situation is evolving quickly, and we will continue to share updates when appropriate.”
The company previously prevented state media from buying or selling ads.
Update 3/2: Google has blocked (via Reuters) Android apps connected to RT and Sputnik from the Play Store in Europe. The company, according to BuzzFeed, has similarly blocked user-generated Google Maps content from within Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus “out of an abundance of caution.” This includes photos, business information, and other tags following reports on social media that have not been confirmed:
Across social media platforms on Tuesday, people accused Google Maps of hosting content allegedly used to target airstrikes on cities such as Kyiv and Kharkiv.
Update 3/1: Google announced last night that it’s “blocking YouTube channels connected to RT and Sputnik across Europe, effective immediately.” This decision follows other social media platforms as mandated by the European Commission. However:
It’ll take time for our systems to fully ramp up. Our teams continue to monitor the situation around the clock to take swift action.
Update 2/26: Citing sanctions, YouTube this morning “paus[ed] a number of channels’ ability to monetize” videos with ads, while also “significantly limiting recommendations to these channels.” This covers the state-owned RT and other Russian channels (via Reuters). Additionally:
And in response to a government request, we’ve restricted access to RT and a number of other channels in Ukraine. We will continue to monitor new developments and may take further actions.
Original 2/25: In a Twitter thread by Google Europe this afternoon, the company announced that it “automatically increased account security protections for people in the region and will continue to do so as cyber threats evolve.” This could include enabling 2-Step Verification (2FA) for more users like it has already been doing independently in recent months.
Google reminds people that they can manually enable measures to make account takeovers harder and that the Advanced Protection Program is available for “individuals and orgs in high risk environments.” YouTube also encouraged creators last night to enable 2FA.
The company shared that a “number of websites in Ukraine have opted into” Project Shield’s protections against DDoS attacks related to the conflict. The service is free for those eligible and primarily meant for defending news and human rights sites that are critical for spreading essential information.
On that front, the company reiterated that Search has “crisis” measures in place to “surface reliable, timely information.” YouTube is said to be “prominently surfacing videos from trusted news sources and working hard to remove content that violates our policies.” This includes removing hundreds of channels and thousands of videos that violate misinformation policies “over the last few days.”
Google said it is “blocking ads related to this crisis that seek to take advantage of the situation” as there are calls to block or demonetize RT’s channel.
Google.org has launched a matching program so that employees can donate to UNHCR, Polish Center for International Aid, International Red Cross Societies, and other humanitarian organizations. Google does not have any offices in Ukraine, but it has two locations in neighboring Poland.
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