There is a war in Ukraine, we all know this and it is not necessary to write much more: a conflict that has been going on since 2014, which has exploded dramatically in recent weeks, seemingly with no way out. Tens of thousands of dead, millions of displaced, difficult solution. A conflict that continues despite attempts (real or presumed) to negotiate to respect the needs of all, and initiatives for Peace.
In any case, it is striking to see that history never repeats itself but rhymes: in the military propaganda spread by the media, in the new and old censorships, and in the involvement of several actors in the theater of war. Among them, the big tech companies, or Big Tech.
Big Technological as new States
On this issue it is interesting to observe the role of Big Tech in this bloody war. Following a trend that is no longer in an embryonic state, the giants of world technology do not limit themselves to supplying instruments to the belligerents (or pacifists): they take an active part.
Over the years, these companies have achieved a virtual monopoly by presenting themselves as impartial platforms that value free expression. At the same time, however, in order to grow, they conformed to local pressures to remove or limit certain information. They were even able to gain access to Russia, which for decades fought to keep Western media out during the Soviet era.
Even then Big Tech played a role: Russia, for example, has repeatedly asked Facebook and Twitter to remove posts encouraging anti-government protests, or asked Apple and Google to remove apps designed to help opposition politicians. And in several cases, companies have agreed. It also happened with several elections in the West (USA above all), with all the load of accusations that companies like Twitter o Meta they received on the manipulation of data and election results. The phenomenon then continued with a "repentance" that produced other imbalances (thousands of censored accounts, the expulsion of presidential candidates from the platforms).
Now, those same companies find themselves embroiled in a new conflict, with higher stakes and enormous capabilities: from those of constituting a strategic advantage for a nation to those of completely orienting the narrative of the conflict (and therefore public opinion). ). Are they in the service of peace, or are they deployed as a state at war?
The interference makes Big Tech think more of a "transnational nation" than a group of companies.
When Google, two days ago, has "shut down" its map service in Ukraine after consulting with Ukrainian officials, she de facto stood side by side with one nation in defending against another nation. Making a strategic choice in a theater of war! Attention, it is not important at this moment to evaluate the merit of the choice, but its importance.
Ditto for Youtube, which at the request of Ukraine, blocked Russia Today channels in the country. Same thing for Microsoft, who has removed the apps from it, and who makes statements as if it were a nation, informing the Ukrainian government and reasoning about the legitimacy or illegitimacy of the Russian aggression. Or again for Starlink, used by Elon Musk to provide satellite internet connectivity to the Ukrainian army. Same goes for WhatsApp, which has activated a helpline in collaboration with the Ukrainian emergency forces. Added to these are even streaming content operators such as Netflix, which in this case (first time for companies of this type) they also blocked official state channels from other countries.
In other words, American companies (and others) are taking sides in geopolitical conflicts. And this is another sign of a process which we will see develop massively over the next few decades.
As Big Tech's role in the Ukrainian war becomes more evident, it is clear that these companies are no longer impartial platforms. They are taking sides in this conflict, and they are acting as transnational nations. This could be a sign of things to come as Big Tech continues to grow in power and influence. In the long term, in the future the world could see these companies become real superpowers (even with their territories, with their currencies, with their 'citizens', with their 'armies') with even greater control over information and communication.