Google and Apple have removed an app from the iOS and Android stores aimed at coordinating protest voting in Russia's elections this weekend from the country, a blow to opponents of President Vladimir Putin and a display of Silicon Valley's restrictions when it comes to resisting crackdowns on dissent across the country. across the country. Globalism.
The New York Times reported that the removal came after threats of criminal prosecution of the company's employees inside Russia over the vote application of imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, a sharp escalation in the Kremlin's campaign to rein in the country's largely uncensored internet.
The app has disappeared from online stores, reflecting a new level of pressure on US tech companies in the country. A spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin told reporters that the app was illegal and that Apple and Google had acted in accordance with the law.
Navalny's assistant Ivan Zhdanov described his removal. It is a shameful act of political control. The Russian government has launched an ongoing campaign against Navalny's app, which was intended to mobilize voters against Putin's party in Russia's parliamentary elections. The country's Internet censorship threatened earlier this month to fine Apple and Google, claiming that keeping the app in the App Store constituted election interference. Apple briefly halted app updates. But neither company removed it at the time.
Russian censors have blocked websites linked to Navalny, and the pressure on Apple and Google is part of a larger crackdown on foreign technology companies.
Russia threatens Apple and Google to sue local employees. Twitter has been throttled in Russia over allegations that it failed to remove illegal content, and a court fined Twitter and Facebook (as well as the messaging app Telegram) for illegal content earlier this week.
A court fined TikTok for similar offenses in May. Apple has received previous criticism for removing protest and media apps in China. Navalny's app removal also threatens to undermine one of its arguments in the recent privacy controversy over clearing iCloud photos.
And while Apple says the technology is strictly limited to finding child sexual abuse material. Skeptics fear the company may succumb to pressure from authoritarian governments to expand it, something Apple has vehemently denied it might do.
Johns Hopkins University professor and cryptologist Matthew Green tweeted. One of the main critics of the scanning system: Apple's defense of removing voting evidence is that it has to comply with the law of the countries in which you operate. However, if lawmakers demand an expansion of her photo scanning collection, she says she refuses. She intends to break the law in this case.