History proves that wars were always won if the powers that be could turn technologies into an advantage. For example, in 1415, the English king Henry V could take over the French at the Battle of Aginkur because of its arches and their newly developed long arches. In this sense, the war in Ukraine may become another case where technologies may decide the outcome of the war.
Further reading: Here’s how the Russia-Ukraine crisis will affect the technology industry
Social media and their role in the war in Ukraine
Although major tech companies have taken steps to curb Russian state media through the use of social media to comment on the war in Ukraine, this war is also known to be closely linked to technology.
When we talk about technologies used in a war, the first thing that comes to mind is propaganda and misinformation. But the truth is that there are myriad ways to use technology and there are myriad purposes for which they can be used.
The technology used in the war in Ukraine made it the most accessible Internet war in history. Via any social platform like Twitter, Facebook, TikTok etc., you can watch various videos from the battlefield. Apart from that, this war has changed the way big tech companies operate and make money. This is obvious because technology companies are associated with power nowadays. For example, governments freely use social platforms to spread propaganda, intimidate their critics, or simply promote their political agendas. Instead, activists use the same platforms to mobilize their followers, call on despots and organize mass actions against governments.
Are social platforms neutral?
In this respect, Foreign Policy points out four factors that show how the platforms work now.
Technology companies say they are neutral and simply distribute information. Thus, they have proved apolitical. Therefore, they are not responsible for the content. Although there was pressure on Twitter and Facebook accusing them of helping Holocaust deniers or conspiracy theorists, it was not until 2020 that Facebook began reviewing its content control policy. And the war in Ukraine shattered the myth of neutrality.
- YouTube has blocked the Russian state media. has removed over 1,000 channels and 15,000 videos.
- Facebook has blocked the official Russian stores RT and Sputnik in the European Union. Also, monetization and advertising do not work for Russian accounts.
- Twitter restricted ads in Ukraine and Russia. In addition, it has reduced the visibility of tweets published by media affiliated with the Russian state.
Government companies control technology
However, this is not something new. We mean technology companies are always feeling the breath of governments around their necks. In Nigeria, for example, the government suspended Twitter for seven months. Only after Twitter opened an office in the country and worked with the government to establish a “code of conduct” was it allowed to continue operating.
All sorts of restrictions lead to substitute applications and systems. For example, in 2010, the Chinese government restricted Facebook and Google. Now, they have their own applications like WeChat, QQ etc. The same can be said for HarmonyOS, Huawei’s own Android version. The same thing is happening now in Russia. As Google Play Market does not operate in Russia, they have set up their own app store. Of course, this not only opens up new perspectives for local developers and tech companies, but also allows governments to control the content that is spread across the platforms.
Technologies used in the war in Ukraine
We should also note that Ukraine has shown resourcefulness in the rapid conversion of commercial technology into military capability. Ukraine uses drones, artificial intelligence and space technologies to show off its muscles.
- Ukrainian forces used 3D printers to add tail fins to Soviet-era anti-tank grenades. As a result, a $ 100 grenade could destroy Russian vehicles costing hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars.
- A Ukrainian artificial intelligence company, Primer has modified its commercial voice translation and artificial intelligence service so that it can understand intercepted Russian communications and leak information about Ukrainian forces.
- In terms of space technologies, satellite images showed murdered civilians lying on the side of the road, some with their arms and legs tied. Russia has said the images are false and have nothing to do with its “special operation” in Ukraine. Russian troops were said to have left the city before the pictures were taken (March 30). But satellite images from space technology company Maxar on March 18, when Russian forces were still in control, showed the corpses lying dead on the side of the road, in exactly the same locations.
Commercial Techs In War
Confidence mentions various ways in which technology companies use their services and products to help Ukrainians.
- Airbnb has provided free, temporary accommodation to up to 100,000 refugees fleeing Ukraine.
- Using charities and cryptocurrencies, the Ukrainian government has raised nearly $ 13 million.
- But Russia has made better use of this new currency. According to official figures, the local allocations of cryptocurrencies of the Russian government are $ 200 billion. This is 12% of it the whole world. In addition, there are 17 million Russians who hold cryptocurrencies. half a million computer programmers work in this field. It is no coincidence that Russia is the third country in the world in terms of Bitcoin network mining activity. Following the sanctions, Putin called for the use of surplus energy to extract cryptocurrencies. That is why for many Russians, sanctions and disconnection from Swift have no effect.
New Application of Face Recognition Technology
Ukraine is also using artificial intelligence-based face recognition software to track down Russian personnel killed and inform their relatives of their deaths. According to Deputy Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov, they use Clearview AI. The latter uses face recognition to find out the profiles of the killed soldiers on social media.
A month ago, we all worked on FaceID and CRM systems for processing calls for online services. Now, we are working on the automatic identification of the corpses of the occupiers and RU subscribers to tell the truth about the war. We have all changed. And we all do different things. Glory to Ukraine!
– Mykhailo Fedorov (@FedorovMykhailo) March 23, 2022
“As a courtesy to the mothers of these soldiers, we are distributing this information on social media to at least inform families that they have lost their sons and to allow them to come later to retrieve their bodies,” Fedorov said.
Clearview CEO Hoan Ton-That said Reuters that they have access to more than 2 billion images from the Russian social networking service VKontakte. As a reference, the latter has more than 10 billion photos.