Microsoft and Google join exodus from Russia

Microsoft has stopped all sales in Russia, making it one of the largest companies to take action in response to the invasion of Ukraine.

The software giant behind Windows, Xbox and Office said it would “suspend all new sales of Microsoft products and services in Russia” but continue honoring existing relationships in the country.

Brad Smith, Microsoft’s president, said: “Like the rest of the world, we are horrified, angered and saddened by the images and news coming from the war in Ukraine and condemn this unjustified, unprovoked and unlawful invasion by Russia.”

The company was also stopping many aspects of its business to comply with government sanctions against Russia, I added.

Microsoft had already removed the state-funded broadcaster Russia Today (RT) from its app stores and said it was providing cybersecurity support to Ukraine.

It came after Google, the world’s biggest advertising company, suspended its ad business in Russia in a blow to the country’s digital economy, and Facebook and Instagram blocked RT in the UK.

Google said it would pause its advertising businesses including ads on its search engine, YouTube and its massive display advertising operation.

The latter runs adverts for millions of websites, meaning its suspension cuts off a key income stream.

Google is the most popular search engine in Russia, according to the tracking website Statcounter, although it is not as dominant as in many other countries and faces competition with the domestic search engine Yandex.

“In light of the extraordinary circumstances, we’re pausing Google ads in Russia. The situation is evolving quickly, and we will continue to share updates when appropriate,” the company said.

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Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, said it was blocking RT and fellow broadcaster Sputnik after a request from Nadine Dorries, the Culture Secretary.

“Earlier this week, we announced that we’d be restricting access to RT and Sputnik across the EU. Consistent with that action, and following a request from the UK government, we will also be restricting access to RT and Sputnik in the UK at this time,” it said.

YouTube had already blocked the broadcasters in Europe and the UK, while the Google Play Store used to download Android apps has also removed them.

It had previously demonetized the channels, meaning they could not make money from adverts. It has also banned advertisements seeking to profit from the war.

The Russian communications regulator, Roskomnadzor, had demanded on Thursday that Google stop showing adverts it claimed contained “false political information” about the war in Ukraine. It had said the company was running adverts designed to misinform the Russian public and stoke unrest.

The regulator has slowed down access to Facebook in the country in retaliation for the social network blocking Russian state media in Ukraine.

Google has been repeatedly fined in Russia for failing to remove material that the government has deemed “illegal”. The Kremlin has sought to increase its control of the internet with restrictions on major technology companies.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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