Update on March 10, 2022:
- Our Threat Analysis Group has been focusing on the safety and security of our users in Ukraine and the surrounding region, to help them access and share important information. TAG has observed activity from a range of threat actors, including FancyBear and Ghostwriter, that they regularly monitor and that are well-known to law enforcement. Earlier this week, we shared more information about these threats, to help raise awareness among the security community and high risk users.
- We have all seen the pictures of the unfolding humanitarian and refugee disaster in Ukraine. To help the increasing number of refugees in the region, we are developing ways for businesses to flag if they are providing services to refugees. Beginning today, hotel owners in countries neighboring Ukraine can indicate on their Business Profile whether they're offering free or discounted accommodations for refugees. And local businesses can post to their Business Profile on Search and Maps to offer various services and aid to refugees from Ukraine. As we compile this information over the coming weeks, we'll make it possible for people to quickly find these places on Search and Maps.
- As part of our increased investment in Poland, we announced that we will be using Google’s spaces and resources to support those affected by the war, including by using the Google for Startups Campus in Warsaw as a space where local NGOs can provide legal and psychological support to refugees. That builds on our $10 million commitment to local organizations helping refugees who arrive into Poland, and our support for NGOs doing this crucial work in Slovakia, Romania and Hungary.
- Tragically, millions of people in Ukraine now rely on air strike alerts to try to get to safety. At the request, and with the help, of the government of Ukraine, we've started rolling out a rapid Air Raid Alerts system for Android phones in Ukraine. This work is supplemental to the country's existing air raid alert systems, and based on alerts already being delivered by the Ukrainian government.
- We continue our work to significantly limit recommendations globally for a number of Russian state-funded media outlets across our platforms. In Europe, we are removing apps from Russian state-funded media beyond RT and Sputnik from Google Play. And as stipulated by the EU's Council Regulation (EU) 2022/350, we have removed RT and Sputnik from our Search results in the European Union. As part of our standard process when we receive a notice of illegal content appearing in Search results, and to provide transparency into such requests, we submitted the request to the Lumen database.
- Following our announcement last week that we paused Google ads in Russia, we’ve now paused the vast majority of our commercial activities in Russia – including ads on our properties and networks globally for all Russian-based advertisers, new Cloud sign ups, the payments functionality for most of our services, and monetization features for YouTube viewers in Russia. 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.
– Kent Walker
Update on March 4, 2022:
- Our security teams are working 24/7 to protect Ukrainian users and important local services. We continue to see DDoS attempts against numerous Ukraine sites, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Internal Affairs, as well as services like Liveuamap designed to help people find information. We have expanded eligibility for Project Shield, our free protection against DDoS attacks, so that Ukrainian government websites, embassies worldwide and other governments in close proximity to the conflict can stay online, protect themselves and continue to offer their crucial services.
Project Shield allows Google to absorb the bad traffic in a DDos attack and act as a “shield” for smaller websites, allowing them to continue operating and defend against these attacks. As of today, over 150 websites in Ukraine, including many news organizations, are using the service and we have communicated its availability to Ukraine government representatives. We encourage all eligible organizations to register for Project Shield so our systems can help block these attacks and keep websites online.
- The invasion of Ukraine is quickly creating a devastating humanitarian crisis. Over 1.2 million Ukrainians have already fled their homes, according to data from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and the UN has warned that number may rise to 5 million people in the coming weeks and months. Half of the refugees who have fled so far have sought temporary refuge in Poland. Today we are increasing our support to $25 million total, committing an additional $10 million to help organizations delivering both immediate humanitarian aid and longer-term assistance for refugees in Poland.
- Air raid alerts and sirens in Ukraine are a tragic daily reality, and we're doing all we can to help people get these crucial alerts as many ways as possible. We are highlighting the Повітряна тривога (Ukrainian Alarm) app to Google Play users in Ukraine. This app was created by Ukrainian developers in cooperation with the Ukrainian government to give people better air raid warnings.
- To help vital organizations involved in providing humanitarian assistance such as medical supplies, food relief, and refugee support and aid, we are extending free services through Google Cloud credits to eligible organizations.
- To help people communicate with friends and family at this urgent time, we’re waiving international calling fees from Ukraine and from the U.S. to Ukraine on Google Fi, and we’re waiving calling fees to Ukraine for people using Google Voice for the time being.
- We’re continuing to monitor the situation and evolving government regulations – including sanctions – in the region. We are in constant communication with governments in Europe and globally so that we can work to implement their decisions promptly, including limiting the presence of Russian state-funded media across our platforms.
– Kent Walker
Original blog post, published March 1:
The Russian invasion of Ukraine is both a tragedy and a humanitarian disaster in the making. The international community’s response to this war continues to evolve and governments are imposing new sanctions and restrictions.
Our teams are working around the clock to support people in Ukraine through our products, defend against cybersecurity threats, surface high-quality, reliable information and ensure the safety and security of our colleagues and their families in the region.
Here are a few of the actions we’re taking.
Providing support from Google.org
Together, Google.org and Google employees are contributing $15 million in donations and in-kind support to aid relief efforts in Ukraine, including $5 million so far from our employee matching campaign and $5 million in direct grants. We’re also contributing $5 million in advertising grants to help trusted humanitarian and intergovernmental organizations connect people to important sources of aid and resettlement information.
According to the Polish Red Cross, since Thursday last week over 300,000 people have arrived in Poland. (photo credit: Red Cross)
Updating Search and Maps in Ukraine
We've 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. We’re working with expert organizations to source helpful humanitarian information as the situation unfolds.
And after consulting with multiple sources on the ground, including local authorities, we’ve 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. We’ve also added information on refugee and migrant centers in neighboring countries.
Expanding security protections
Our security teams are on call 24/7. Russia-backed hacking and influence operations are not new to us; we’ve been taking action against them for years. Over the past 12 months alone, we’ve issued hundreds of government-backed attack warnings to people in Ukraine using products like Gmail. We’ve been particularly vigilant during the invasion and our products will continue to automatically detect and block suspicious activity.
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. For example, we’ve seen the attackers behind the GhostWriter threat group targeting Ukrainian government and military officials. We blocked these attempts and have not seen any compromise of Google accounts as a result of this campaign.
We also automatically increased Google account security protections (including more frequent authentication challenges) for people in the region and will continue to do so as cyber threats evolve. Our Advanced Protection Program — which delivers Google’s highest level of security — is currently protecting the accounts of hundreds of high-risk users in Ukraine. And “Project Shield,” a service providing free unlimited protection against Distributed Denial of Service attacks, is already protecting over 150 Ukrainian websites, including local news services.
Promoting information quality
In this extraordinary crisis we are taking extraordinary measures to stop the spread of misinformation and disrupt disinformation campaigns online.
Beginning today, we’re blocking YouTube channels connected to RT and Sputnik across Europe. This builds on our indefinite pause of monetization of Russian state-funded media across our platforms, meaning media outlets such as RT are not allowed to monetize their content or advertise on our platforms.
We have also significantly limited recommendations globally for a number of Russian state-funded media outlets across our platforms. And in the past few days, YouTube has removed hundreds of channels and thousands of videos for violating its Community Guidelines, including a number of channels engaging in coordinated deceptive practices.
Of course we are working to not just reduce the reach of unreliable information, but also to make reliable and trustworthy information readily available. Our systems are built to prioritize the most authoritative information in moments of crisis and rapidly-changing news. When people around the world search for topics related to the war in Ukraine on Search or YouTube, our systems prominently surface information, videos and other key context from authoritative news sources.
Helping our colleagues in Ukraine
We remain extremely concerned for the safety and wellbeing of our Ukrainian team and their families. Our local Security and People Operations teams have been working since January to provide help, including physical security support, paid leave, assistance options and reimbursement for housing, travel and food for anyone forced to leave their homes.
Operating our services in Russia
We are committed to complying with all sanctions requirements and we continue to monitor the latest guidance. As individuals, regions and institutions like banks are sanctioned, products like Google Pay may become unavailable in certain countries.
Most of our services (like Search, Maps and YouTube) currently remain available in Russia, continuing to provide access to global information and perspectives.
We will continue to monitor the situation and take additional actions as needed – and we join the international community in expressing sincere hope for a return to a peaceful and sovereign Ukraine.