Apple and Google remove election app for Navalny supporters in Russia, under Putin regime pressure

www.vox.com
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Critics say Apple is not keeping its promise to hold fast when faced with government pressure.
Apple and Google shut down a voting app meant to help opposition parties organize against the Kremlin in a parliamentary election in Russia that's taking place over the weekend. The companies removed the app from their app stores on Friday after the Russian government accused them of interfering in the country's internal affairs, a clear attempt by President Vladimir Putin to obstruct free elections and stay in power.

The Smart Voting app was designed to identify candidates most likely to beat members of the government-backed party, United Russia, as part of a broader strategy organized by supporters of the imprisoned Russian activist Alexei Navalny to bring together voters who oppose Putin. In a bid to clamp down on the opposition effort, the Russian government told Google and Apple that the app was illegal, and reportedly threatened to arrest employees of both companies in the country.

The move also comes amid a broader crackdown on Big Tech in Russia. Earlier this week, a Russian court fined Facebook and Twitter for not removing "illegal" content, and the country is reportedly blocking peoples' access to Google Docs, which Navalny supporters had been using to share lists of preferred candidates.

Removing the Navalny app from stores is a shameful act of political censorship.

Russia's authoritarian government and propaganda will be thrilled.@google @Apple — Ivan Zhdanov (@ioannZH) September 17, 2021

Critics say the episode serves as an example of why Apple, specifically, can't be trusted to protect people's civil liberties and resist government pressure. The company strictly controls the software allowed on to millions of devices and has recently faced…
Rebecca Heilweil
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