Apple and Google come under pressure in Russia to remove Kremlin critic’s tactical voting app

Apple and Google removed a tactical voting app created by the organization of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny from their respective mobile app stores in Russia.

Earlier this week Reuters reported that the Russian state had been increasing pressure on foreign tech giants ahead of federal elections, appropriating the language of “electoral interference” to pressure US companies to censor the high-profile political opponent of President Putin.

Upon Twitter Today, a key Navalny ally, Ivan Zhdanov, tweeted that his organization is considering suing Apple and Google for removing the apps, calling the act of censorship a “big mistake.”

Zhdanov has also published what it says is Apple’s response to Team Navalny, in which the tech giant cites the Kremlin’s classification of various pro-Navalny organizations as “extremist” groups to justify the removal of the software.

(Image credit: Details screenshot of Apple’s notification to developer, via Zhdanov’s cheep)

Apple and Google routinely say they comply with “all local laws” in the countries where they operate.

However, in Russia that stance means that they have become complicit in acts of political censorship.

“We note that the Office of the Prosecutor of the Russian Federation and the Office of the Moscow City Prosecutor have also determined that the application violates the law of the Russian Federation by allowing interference in elections,” Apple writes in the removal notice it sent. to the developer of the tactical voting application.

“While your app was removed from the Russian app store, it is still available in the app stores for the other territories you selected on App Store Connect,” adds Apple.

Apple and Google have been contacted for comment on the removal of the Navalny app.

Also via Twitter, Zhdanov urged supporters to focus on the tactical voting mission: Tweeting a link to a video hosted on YouTube, owned by Google, containing recommendations for Russians on how to cast a vote against Putin in the parliamentary elections that will take place today until Sunday.

Navalny’s supporters hope to mobilize voters across Russia to cast tactical votes in a bid to topple Putin by voting for whichever candidate has the best chance of defeating the ruling United Russia party.

Your tactical voting strategy has faced some criticism – given that many of the suggested alternatives are, at best, only very weakly opposed to the Putin regime.

However, Navalny supporters would surely point out that they have to operate within a flawed system.

After Apple and Google initially refused to remove Navalny’s ‘Smart Voting’ app, last month, the Russian state tried to block access to their organization’s website.

Has even supposedly targeting google docs – which Navalny supporters have also been using to organize tactical voting efforts.

Screenshot of the Smart Voting app on the UK iOS app store (Image credits: Natasha Lomas / TechCrunch)

Earlier this month Reuters reported that Russia’s communications regulator Roskomnadzor had threatened Apple and Google with fines if they did not remove the Smart Voting app, warning that non-compliance could be construed as electoral meddling.

Russian press It has also reported that Apple and Google were summoned to a meeting in the Federation Council on the eve of the elections, as the Putin regime sought to force them to carry out its undemocratic orders.

According to a report by KommersantTech giants were warned that the Russian Federation was preparing to tighten regulations on their businesses, and told to “come to their senses,” facing another warning that they were on a “red line.”

The latest desperate effort to force platforms to remove the Navalny app paid off.

In recent weeks, Roskomnadzor has also been targeting VPN applications in the country for removal, making it difficult for Russians to circumvent the local Navalny app ban by accessing the software through stores in other countries.

Local search giant Yandex has also received orders don’t show search results for Smart Voting app.

At the beginning of this yearThe Putin regime also took aim at Twitter, strangling the service for failing to remove content it wanted to ban, although Roskomnadzor claimed the action was related to non-political content, such as minors committing suicide, child sexual exploitation and drug use.

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