Apple and Google accused of political censorship of Alexei Navalny’s app | Alexei Navalny

Supporters of imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny Google and Apple were accused of capitulating to Kremlin pressure after the two tech companies removed its tactical voting app from their online stores.

Both companies came under significant pressure from Russian regulators in the days before the court’s parliamentary elections to block access to Navalny’s Smart Voting Initiative, which attempts to direct opposition voices toward the ruling party’s strongest opponent, United. Russia.

Google and Apple have been accused of election interference by Russian officials amid a larger standoff between the Kremlin and big technology over the extent to which the authoritarian Russian government controls information published within the country. On Friday, the Kremlin said it welcomed the apps’ removal.

as Voting in the parliamentary elections began on FridayThe apps have disappeared from the two companies’ stores in Russia, and Ivan Zhdanov, one of Navalny’s top advisers, posted a message from Apple that appeared to confirm that company’s decision.

“We are writing to inform you that your app will be removed from the Russia App Store because it contains content that is illegal in Russia,” the note reads. The memo added that Navalny’s organization was considered “extremist” in Russia.

Zhdanov wrote: “Removing the Navalny app from stores is a shameful act of political censorship. Propaganda and the authoritarian government in Russia will be cheerful.

He also said Navalny’s team is considering filing a lawsuit against the tech companies. The Guardian has reached out to Google and An apple to comment.

A Russian court fined Google last month, as regulators demanded social media companies including Twitter and Facebook store data of Russian users in the country and removed material banned by Russian courts and regulators. The Russian government also told Google that it should remove search results related to Navalny’s smart voting initiative.

Apple was also fined $12 million earlier this year for allegedly having a monopoly in the app market. She has challenged this decision in court.

Google and Apple came under pressure to host the Navalny app online ahead of the election. Local representatives of both companies were invited to the Federation Council, a legislative body, for an intense briefing by Russian senators and regulators.

One lawmaker also said that employees of the two companies could face criminal prosecution if they ignore demands to ban the Navalny app.

“Entities and persons associated with Apple and Google must be aware that intentionally unlawful actions and criminal inaction upon receiving relevant warnings from Russian officials will always entail legal consequences, up to criminal prosecution,” said Vladimir Dshaparov, a member of the Federation Council. . At a committee meeting on Thursday, according to Interfax.

The US ambassador was summoned to the State Department for a similar reprimand. The Russian government’s accusations of US election interference appear to be intentionally reflective of similar investigations in the United States.

“The Russian side possesses compelling evidence that the ‘digital giants’ have violated Russian laws before the Russian elections,” the foreign ministry wrote.

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