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Apple to pause product sales in Russia as tech firms feel pressure over Ukraine

Apple has said it will pause all product sales in Russia, heeding requests from Ukrainian officials to take action against the country in response to its invasion.

“We are deeply concerned about the Russian invasion of Ukraine and stand with all of the people who are suffering as a result of the violence,” Apple said in a statement on Tuesday.

The company outlined a number of actions in response to the invasion, including stopping all exports into its sales channels in the country.

It added that Apple Pay and other services had been limited, and that Russian state media, RT News and Sputnik News, were no longer available for download from the Apple Store outside Russia.

The decision came days after Ukrainian officials called on the tech companies to take further action against Russia, urging them to restrict access to their services within the country, more forcefully curtail the spread of false information, and crack down on Russian state-backed outlets.

“In 2022, modern technology is perhaps the best answer to the tanks, multiple rocket launchers and missiles,” said the Ukraine vice-prime minister and minister of digital transformation, Mykhailo Fedorov, in a letter to Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook.

Following the announcement on Tuesday he urged Cook to “finish the job” and block access to the App Store in Russia. “They kill our children, now kill their access!” he tweeted.

The decision comes as tech companies face increased scrutiny over their response to the ongoing conflict. With billions flocking to social media for news on the war and Russian state media using tech to disseminate its own messaging, concerns about mis- and disinformation are on the rise.

Neighboring countries have made similar requests, with the prime ministers of Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia sending a joint letter to the chief executives of Google, Facebook and Twitter last week.

“Although the online platforms have undertaken significant efforts to address the Russian government’s unprecedented assault on truth, they have not done enough,” they said in the letter.

Other companies have also taken action, with Reddit announcing on Tuesday it has quarantined its r/Russia channel to address a rise in misinformation – making it more difficult for users to find by suspending it from searches, recommendations and feeds.

Facebook’s parent company, Meta, has taken steps including barring Russian state-run media from selling ads on its platforms, removing networks of accounts spreading misinformation, and blocking access to RT and Sputnik across the European Union.

An activist group monitoring Facebook policy that calls itself the Real Facebook Oversight Board has urged the platform to take “more aggressive action” to stop the spread of misinformation.

“Facebook is following its damage control playbook, taking a victory lap for action that looks good on the surface but falls tragically short,” it said.

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