Google puts profit before principle on Crimea, Portnikov says

Collage: Despite international norms and principles, Google shows on its map as a part of Russia the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea militarily occupied by Russia in 2014. The financial chart indicates that the stock price for Google's corporate parent company Alphabet Inc. more than doubled since the year Putin annexed Crimea. (Image: Euromaidan Press, Google Maps, Yahoo Finance)

Collage: Despite international norms and principles, Google shows on its map as a part of Russia the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea militarily occupied by Russia in 2014. The financial chart indicates that the stock price for Google's corporate parent company Alphabet Inc. more than doubled since the year Putin annexed Crimea. (Image: Euromaidan Press, Google Maps, Yahoo Finance) 

Crimea, International, Op-ed

Moscow media outlets are celebrating Google’s decision to show Crimea as part of Russia, even though it will continue to show it was part of Ukraine everywhere else, as a first step toward international recognition of the Russian occupation as legitimate, Vitaly Portnikov says.

But in fact, the Ukrainian commentator says, this change by the giant media corporation has little to do with the principle of recognition or non-recognition of the Russian Anschluss. It has far more to do with the company’s pursuit of profit and desire not to be cut out of the Russian market.

“I do not know whether I’m revealing a state secret or not,” Portnikov says, “but Crimea remains Ukrainian territory even on the maps of Yandex,” the Russian media firm. It “understands very well the difference between the territory of Russia and the occupied territory of Ukraine.” He

Apparently unwittingly, he suggests, Google by its action has highlighted just how isolated Russia is in believing that Crimea is legitimately part of Russia. The company won’t have to change its maps very much because there are “practically no” other countries who agree with Moscow.

As far as Russia itself is concerned, Portnikov continues, the notion that Crimea is Russia is of “a temporary, ‘Putinist’ character. Sooner or later, Putin will not be around, and neither will be ‘Russian’ Crimea.”

By its actions in this case, Google has shown that for it, profit is more important than the laws of any particular country, including those of the US where its headquarters is based, or international law either. And that suggests how the US and the EU should proceed in this case, Portnikov argues.

The two should “turn their attention not only to the problems of copyright and fakes, disinformation and propaganda in the work of technological giants but also on this question of principle.” And they should take steps that will cost Google more than Moscow can over the issue of the status of Crimea. That may be the only way to get its attention.

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Edited by: A. N.

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