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Google and Apple, Under Pressure From Russia, Remove Voting App

Friday September 17, 2021. 11:45 PM , from Slashdot/Apple
Apple and Google removed an app meant to coordinate protest voting in this weekend's Russian elections from the country on Friday, a blow to the opponents of President Vladimir V. Putin and a display of Silicon Valley's limits when it comes to resisting crackdowns on dissent around the world. From a report: The decisions came after Russian authorities, which claim the app is illegal, threatened to prosecute local employees of Apple and Google -- a sharp escalation in the Kremlin's campaign to rein in the country's largely uncensored internet. A person familiar with Google's decision said the authorities had named specific individuals who would face prosecution, prompting it to remove the app.

The person declined to be identified for fear of angering the Russian government. Google has more than 100 employees in the country. Apple did not respond to phone calls, emails or text messages seeking comment. The app was created and promoted by allies of the opposition leader Aleksei A. Navalny, who were hoping to use it to consolidate the opposition vote in each of Russia's 225 electoral districts. It disappeared from the two technology platforms just as voting got underway in the three-day parliamentary election, in which Mr. Putin's United Russia party -- in a carefully stage-managed system -- holds a commanding advantage.

Mr. Navalny's team reacted with outrage to the decision, suggesting the companies had made a damaging concession to the Russians. 'Removing the Navalny app from stores is a shameful act of political censorship,' an aide to Mr. Navalny, Ivan Zhdanov, said on Twitter. 'Russia's authoritarian government and propaganda will be thrilled.' The decisions also drew harsh condemnation from free-speech activists in the West. 'The companies are in a really difficult position but they have put themselves there,' David Kaye, a former United Nations official responsible for investigating freedom of expression issues, said in an interview. 'They are de facto carrying out an element of Russian repression. Whether it's justifiable or not, it's complicity and the companies need to explain it.'

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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