Google launches air raid alerts system for Ukraine’s Android users

11 Mar 2022

Image: © bennymarty/Stock.adobe.com

Google has taken further measures in response to the ongoing conflict, pausing most commercial activities with Russia while rolling out safety features for users in Ukraine.

Google has started to roll out a rapid air raid alerts system for Android users in Ukraine to help citizens get to safety before an attack.

The tech giant made the announcement yesterday (10 March) along with a list of further measures it is taking in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Future Human

Google said that millions in Ukraine are now relying on air strike alerts to get to safety during Russian attacks, and it is launching a new rapid alert system for Android phones.

“This work is supplemental to the country’s existing air raid alert systems, and based on alerts already being delivered by the Ukrainian government,” Google said in a blog post.

Google vice-president for engineering Dave Burke tweeted that the system leverages Google’s low-latency alert mechanism that it built for earthquake alerts.

“The system starts rolling out today and will ramp up to target all Android phones in Ukraine over the next few days,” Burke said on Twitter yesterday.

Along with this feature, Google shared new restrictions it is imposing against Russia.

The tech giant said it is continuing to “significantly limit recommendations globally for a number of Russian state-funded media outlets across our platforms”. Google has already removed the apps of Russian state-media groups RT and Sputnik from Google Play in Europe and is now removing apps from state-backed media beyond these organisations. It has also removed RT and Sputnik from search results within the EU.

Following the company’s decision last week to pause Google ads in Russia, it said yesterday that it has paused “the vast majority” of commercial activities in the country. This includes new Cloud sign-ups, the payments functionality for most Google services, and monetisation features for YouTube in Russia.

Google said it has also paused ads on its properties and networks globally for “all Russian-based advertisers”.

“We can confirm that our free services such as Search, Gmail and YouTube are still operating in Russia,” the company said. “We will continue to closely monitor developments.”

DuckDuckGo

Google isn’t the only search engine taking measures against Russia in response to the crisis. The CEO of DuckDuckGo, Gabriel Weinberg, said that he is “sickened by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the gigantic humanitarian crisis it continues to create”.

Weinberg said his search engine is rolling out updates that “down-rank sites associated with Russian disinformation”.

He added that DuckDuckGo often places news modules and information boxes at the top of its search results “to highlight quality information for rapidly unfolding topics”.

Social media updates

Social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are continuing to deal with content issues, with both sites recently taking down a Russian embassy’s posts that denied the Mariupol hospital bombing.

Both companies said the Russian embassy in the UK violated rules against denying violent events by claiming an image of the bombing was fake and that the hospital was being used by Ukrainian soldiers, Reuters reported.

Meanwhile, Meta appears to have made a change to its policies on hate speech, by allowing Facebook and Instagram users to post calls for violence against Russians and the country’s soldiers in the context of the invasion of Ukraine, according to internal emails seen by Reuters yesterday.

Don’t miss out on the knowledge you need to succeed. Sign up for the Daily Brief, Silicon Republic’s digest of need-to-know sci-tech news.

Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic

editorial@siliconrepublic.com