On Wednesday night, as Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, tech giants in the U.S. began rolling out new safety features and tips for users in the region.
Twitter's Safety team began sharing tips in Ukrainian for how users in the country can cover their digital tracks to help keep themselves safe. That included details for deleting their accounts entirely. Meta, meanwhile, launched a one-click tool for people in Ukraine that enables them to lock their Facebook accounts and stood up a special operations center to track the situation as it unfolds.
"When using Twitter in conflict zones or other high-risk areas, it’s important to be aware of how to control your account and digital information," the @TwitterSafety account tweeted Wednesday. The tweets, shared in both English and Ukrainian, spelled out how users can craft stronger passwords, implement two-factor authentication, make their tweets private and turn off location settings, among other things.
But the tips also revealed how little control users actually have over their information once it's been shared online in the first place. "If you enabled Tweet location in the past & want to disable it / remove location info from your previous Tweets, you can. Just know deleting it on Twitter won’t guarantee it’ll be removed from third-party apps or external search results," one tip read.
"Find out if your tweets are public or protected–which means they’re only visible to your followers–and adjust your settings accordingly. (Just know protecting tweets won't remove your old followers, though.)," read another.
Russia's attack on Ukraine is far from the only war to play out on U.S. tech platforms. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have all fumbled their way through conflicts in Syria, Myanmar and elsewhere. But Russia's invasion of Ukraine may be the first one that Western countries have paid such close attention to from the very outset. That puts added pressure on these companies to get things right, from the way they moderate disinformation without distorting the historical record to the way they protect user information, so that people's digital lives don't put their actual lives at risk.
This story has been updated to include details about Meta's safety measures.