Global politics is taking some unexpected turns. What happened with NATO trying to exert its influence in Ukraine has now reached a conclusion. Russia occupied Crimea and now despite sanctions and other issues, its annexation of the territory seems legitimised. Specifically, by the leading tech companies, Google and Apple.
Both companies have accommodated Russia by showing Crimea as a part of its territory in their digital maps. These maps are used by many more people than official maps. So, while governments may or may not recognise the annexation, people are being shown a new reality.
Crimea was bought under Russian control in 2014. The Russian Federal Assembly, the Duma, stated in a press release, "The Apple representative informed the Chairman of the Committee that inaccuracy in displaying the Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol as the territory of the Russian Federation in the Maps and Weather apps on Apple devices were finally removed."
This move is in contrast to the stand that former US President, Barack Obama had taken – he had put sanctions on Russia and derided Putin for his actions. In contrast, the Donald Trump government has been cosying up to Putin and no objections are expected to be put in by the present US government against this development.
Both companies have now bowed down to demands of the Duma, which called showing Crimea as Ukrainian territory a criminal act.
But, there is a slight twist. If you are viewing from Russia, you will see Crimea as Russian territory. But, if you are viewing from the US, you will see it as neutral territory.
When asked about the issue, a Google spokesperson told TechCrunch, "We make every effort to objectively depict the disputed regions, and where we have local versions of Google Maps, we follow local legislation when displaying names and borders."
We can't particularly fault tech companies for this though. They are after all, not governments. They don't have an army nor an embassy. In fact, they are dependent on local governments, where they operate. They will have to, sooner or later bow down to the demands of local governments.