Russia Runs Out Of iPhones... And Without Google Maps

Silicon Valley reacts to the invasion of Ukraine by cutting services and stopping the distribution of its products.

Getting hold of an iPhone in Russia is a little more difficult today, and not only because the fall of the ruble has made it even more of a luxury than it was before. Although the phone is still shipping in some stores, Apple no longer imports new units or sells them through its store.

The company has confirmed that it stopped importing all of its products (not just iPhones) to Russia last week in response to the Ukraine invasion. The Apple Pay payment system and other services are also limited and the apps of the state propaganda outlets, RT News and Sputnik, are no longer distributed on the App Store outside of Russia.

Blocking Of Russian State Media

"We are deeply concerned about the Russian invasion of Ukraine and we support all the people who are suffering as a result of the violence", they have communicated from the company in a brief note explaining the decision. But Apple is not the only technology company that has decided to restrict its services in Russia. More than a dozen tech companies are making similar moves to protest the Moscow government's actions. Google, for example, has limited some features in its products and imposed restrictions on state media.

The traffic function of Google Maps has been blocked in Ukraine to prevent armies from discovering troop movements (since soldiers often carry their mobiles, Google interprets a large number of them moving slowly as a traffic jam). The company has also blocked the distribution of news from Russian state media on Google News and cut monetization options for its YouTube channels. Google Pay has also stopped working in the country due to the economic sanctions imposed.

Google Has Upgraded

Meta, the company formerly known as Facebook, has also cut some of its services. In Europe, for example, access to RT News and Sputnik has been completely blocked, following Union guidelines. Microsoft is another that has also joined the RT chain blockade. "We have removed the RT News app from our Windows app store and deprioritized search results on Bing so that it only returns links to RT and Sputnik when a user has a clear intention to navigate to those pages," they explain from the company.

The popular video-on-demand service Netflix has also warned that it will not comply with a law that forced it to broadcast live the signal of 20 Russian state channels from today. "Given the current situation, we have no plans to add these channels to our service," a Netflix spokesperson said late Monday. These decisions will surely further strain relations between the Kremlin and the big American technology companies, which were already suffering from excessive tension. A law passed at the end of 2021 requires these companies to have local offices and servers for their data, but few have taken the step.

The type of information they handle also makes them a target for censorship and population control. Meta, without going any further, has suffered partial blockades in Russia since last weekend and the company points out that these cuts are partly aimed at stopping the protests of Russian citizens against the war.

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