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Correction: This article was posted on 19 April 2022 and incorrectly stated that Google Maps had unblurred Russian military sites.
The original claim seems to have originated from an April 18, 2022 tweet from the @ArmedForcesUkr account (archived here).
Although it had a very large following, the @ArmedForcesUkr account was not the official account for the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine. The account @ArmedForcesUkr was recently suspended by Twitter between April 18 and 19, 2022.
Google told PolitiFact that it has not made any changes to its satellite images of Russia. High-quality images of some of those Russian assets have been available online for years on Google services.
Google Maps was reported to have stopped blurring Russia’s military infrastructure for all users amid ongoing tensions between the Kremlin and the tech giants.
A Twitter account alleging to be the Ukrainian Armed Forces revealed images of the claimed sites.
They tweeted: “Now everyone can see a variety of Russian launchers, intercontinental ballistic missile mines, command posts and secret landfills with a resolution of about 0.5 meters per pixel.”
Some of the images depicted the Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier, submarines in the peninsula of Kamchatka, a nuclear weapons store near Murmansk, and a military airbase in Kursk which sits just 150 kilometres from the Ukrainian border.
⚡️GOOGLE MAPS ВІДКРИВ ДОСТУП ДО ВІЙСЬКОВИХ ТА СТРАТЕГІЧНИХ ОБ’ЄКТІВ РОСІЇ.— Armed Forces 🇺🇦 (@ArmedForcesUkr) April 18, 2022
Тепер кожен може побачити різноманітні російські пускові установки, шахти міжконтинентальних балістичних ракет, командні пункти та секретні полігони з роздільною здатністю близько до 0,5 метра на піксель. pic.twitter.com/i75wR8Efwo
However, Google has since revealed they haven't made any changes to their satellite imagery.
It is not uncommon for Google Maps to blur military, classified, or sensitive locations.
The NATO Headquarters in Brussels is partially blurred, while multiple airbases across Europe such as the Vélizy – Villacoublay Air Base in France, and the Zaragoza Air Base in Spain are also rendered in lower resolution.
Tensions between Russia and Google have been strained since the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine.
Google has paused all ad sales in the country and banned Russian state accounts from running ads on their YouTube channels, while some Russian users have had their access to Google Pay cut off.
Meanwhile, Russia has accused Google of spreading ‘false political’ information about the war to Russian citizens.
As reported by The Wall Street Journal, Russian communications watchdog Roskomnadzor said YouTube was running ‘advertising campaigns to misinform the Russian audience’ that were ‘aimed at creating a distorted perception of current events’.
The service @GoogleMaps opened public access to satellite imagery in HQ of all Russian military bases, fortifications, facilities, airports, jets, ships, anti-air systems, nuclear rocket launchpads, etc. On this photo you can see Su-57, a 5th gen fighter jet. #OSINT pic.twitter.com/0aG58yswNQ— Victor Kovalenko (@MrKovalenko) April 18, 2022
Google had also blocked Russian state-owned media outlets RT and Sputnik from making money via ads sold on their platforms such as YouTube.
Google isn’t the only tech company to come at odds with Russia and the handling of information about the invasion of Ukraine.
Facebook owner Meta Platforms Inc. blocked access to the same state-owned outlets, RT and Sputnik, leading to Russia banning Facebook and Instagram under ‘extremism law’.
A representative of Russia’s FSB security service told a Russian court: “The activities of the Meta organisation are directed against Russia and its armed forces.
"We ask (the court) to ban Meta's activities and oblige it to implement this ruling immediately.”
Featured Image Credit: Google Maps
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