The raging debate among geopolitics couch-arm experts here and on Twitter is should the GAFAM disconnect Russia? I myself have no clear answer to this question, but I see three points worth balancing:
- To my knowledge, the U.S. government cannot impose these companies out of specific markets unless they classify their technology as critical for U.S. sovereignty or as a weapons of sorts. Don’t expect Biden to formally acknowledge the strategic importance of the GAFAM as weapons of mass influence anytime soon.
- The Patriot Act allows the federal government to collect data for (let’s be honest) pretty much any reason they want. Being in a cold war situation with Russia ranking pretty high. The incentive to keep these platforms live in Russia to harvest information and maybe push a mix of information/disinformation will be very high.
- We have no business template for a trillion dollars company’s CEOs to decide what to do in a context of a war that is not declared. If they are not formally included in the sanctions package, should they decide on their own to do what we see as the right thing? Unclear. Be sure that stock markets don’t care for a minute and will hammer any expected significant losses ahead. The U.S. citizens don’t care enough about any foreign activity to create an incentive. As for us, let’s be honest, are we going to delete our social media accounts over Ukraine? Or are we just going to add a cute blue and yellow banner to our profiles?
What to make of this?
As I said, I don’t know. But I wouldn’t expect anything to happen. On one side, we, the market, won’t sacrifice our social media comfort over Ukraine; on the over side, the U.S. government might see more opportunities in influencing Russia from inside with these tools.
What I’m sure of is that Europe won’t be part of this discussion. We can’t even cut off Spotify (it’s traded on the NYSE remember?).
Meanwhile, let me reshare this thoughtful and thought-provoking 2012 Tedx talk #-Amsterdam from Peter van Uhm, the Netherlands’ chief of defense at the time: