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Google donates $15 mn in relief to Ukraine, blocks RT, Sputnik on YouTube

Tech giant Google has announced $15 million towards relief efforts in Ukraine, in the wake of a recent military invasion into the country by Russia.

The aid includes $5 million from employee matching campaigns and $5 million in direct grants. The remaining $5 million is raised from advertising credits.

“The Russian invasion of Ukraine is both a tragedy and a humanitarian disaster in the making,” Kent Walker, President, Global Affairs at Google, wrote in a blog post.

Walker added that Google teams are working round the clock to support people in Ukraine through “products, defending against cybersecurity threats, ensuring high-quality, reliable information”.

Further, the company has also launched an SOS alert on Search across Ukraine.

“When people search for refugee and evacuation information, they will see an alert pointing them to United Nations resources for refugees and asylum seekers,” Walker said.

The tech giant has temporarily disabled some live Google Maps features in Ukraine, including the traffic layer and information about how busy places are, to help protect the safety of local communities and their citizens.

It has also added information on refugee and migrant centers in neighboring countries.

The company said its security team is alert on Russia-backed hacking and influence operations.

“While we have not seen meaningful changes in the levels of malicious activity in this region overall, our Threat Analysis Group (TAG) has seen threat actors refocus their efforts on Ukrainian targets,” Walker said.

The company said they have identified “the attackers behind the GhostWriter threat group targeting Ukrainian government and military officials” and have “blocked these attempts”.

The company said it has increased Google account security protections. Google’s Advanced Protection Programme and Project Shield have been activated to protect user accounts as well as 100 Ukrainian websites, including local news services.

Moreover, to curb the spread of misinformation and disrupt disinformation campaigns online, Google has “blocked YouTube channels connected to Russia Today and Sputnik across Europe”.

Earlier Google had indefinitely paused the monetization of Russian state-funded media such as RT across its platforms.

Besides, the tech giant has also significantly limited recommendations globally for a number of Russian state-funded media outlets and “removed hundreds of channels and thousands of videos for violating its Community Guidelines”.

Google is also ensuring help, including physical security support, paid leave, assistance options, and reimbursement for housing, travel, and food for its employees forced to leave their homes.

Google will also comply with any sanction requirements, according to Walker, who said it has curtailed products like Google Pay in Russia. But services like Search, Maps, and YouTube remain currently active.

Previously, other tech giants such as Meta, Apple, Twitter, and Microsoft have also announced similar actions in relation to their business in Russia.

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