Elon Musk, the billionaire CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, has chosen to take Ukraine’s side after Russia invaded its neighbor, an attack condemned around the world.
Musk tells Ukraine to “Hold Strong”, in a tweet on Friday, with the message surrounded by three Ukrainian flags on the left and three others on the right.
At the same time, the eccentric CEO sent his sympathies to the “the great people of Russia, who do not want this.”
🇺🇦🇺🇦🇺🇦 Hold Strong Ukraine 🇺🇦🇺🇦🇺🇦
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 5, 2022
However, while several nations have blocked Russian news outlets and requested that Spacex’s Starlink does the same, Elon Musk refuses to block them from the satellite broadband service.
“Unless at gunpoint”, he tweeted on Saturday, as a free speech advocate. Currently Russian media have full access to Starlink.
Starlink satellite internet access to Ukraine
Since the Russian invasion, Ukraine has been regularly targeted by cyberattacks carried out by Russian operators, according to the country’s IT security agency.
It was necessary then to have internet access via satellite. Elon Musk sent Starlink satellite internet access terminals to Ukraine about a week ago.
This was after Mykhailo Fedorov, Ukrainian Vice Prime Minister challenged the billionaire on Twitter to send the terminals to Ukraine.
@elonmusk, while you try to colonize Mars — Russia try to occupy Ukraine! While your rockets successfully land from space — Russian rockets attack Ukrainian civil people! We ask you to provide Ukraine with Starlink stations and to address sane Russians to stand.
— Mykhailo Fedorov (@FedorovMykhailo) February 26, 2022
Musk took the challenge and sent them, but warned that these Starlink terminals will likely be attacked by Russian hackers.
Now Starlink is the only non-Russian communications system still working in some parts of Ukraine, but is prone to cyber attacks.
“Turn on Starlink only when needed and place antenna as far away from people as possible. Place light camouflage over antenna to avoid visual detection,” Musk advised.
What is Starlink
Starlink is the first consumer product from SpaceX. It is a high-speed internet powered by a network of thousands of small low-orbit satellites.
Starlink enables users in areas that have low signal by the fixed and mobile networks of telecom operators to access the Internet.
The thousands of small satellites circulate in low orbit — mainly 342 miles (550 kilometers) above Earth. The system also needs ground stations all around the globe communicating with the satellites.
Musk’s SpaceX has already launched more than 2,000 Starlink satellites, with an overall goal of increasing the number to 12,000.
Along with the shelling and fighting in city outskirts, the war in Ukraine is also fought in cyber-space.
Cyber-attacks have been raging on both sides, with the situation escalating.
However, as Elon Musk speaks of freedom of speech, the war expands to the digital domain in several different ways.
Should there be online censorship? Should tech companies block news outlets? Are malicious users spreading fake news and disinformation in social platforms? Do government officials propagandize through the same platforms?