Both Apple and Google have now complied with the censorship.
Supporters of the imprisoned de-facto Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny have accused Google and Apple of political censorship for deleting his tactical voting app, after caving to pressure from the government. The Russian government threatened to take action if the app was not deleted.
In the days leading up to the parliamentary elections, the Russian government pressured Apple and Google to remove the Navalny Smart Voting initiative app, which focuses on convincing people to vote for opponents of the ruling party. The government accused the tech giants of election interference.
Ivan Zhdanov, an adviser to Navalny, posted the letter from Apple confirming the app’s removal. Apple’s letter said: “We are writing to notify you that your application will be removed from the Russia App Store because it includes content that is illegal in Russia.”
“Removing the Navalny app from stores is a shameful act of political censorship,” Zhdanov wrote. “Russia’s authoritarian government and propaganda will be thrilled.”
According to The Guardian, representatives from both companies were summoned by the Federation Council for a scolding by legislators and regulators. They were warned that employees could be prosecuted if the companies did not comply with the government’s demands.
“Entities and persons associated with Apple and Google should realize that the knowingly unlawful actions and criminal inaction demonstrated upon receiving relevant warnings from Russian officials will invariably entail legal consequences, up to criminal prosecution,” Vladimir Dzhabarov, a member of the Federation Council, said at a commission meeting on Thursday, Interfax reported.
The US ambassador was also summoned by the foreign ministry. The Kremlin appears to be accusing the US of election interference, an accusation the US has also brought up about Russia in the past.
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