Google and Apple Removed Navalny’s “Smart Voting” App From Their Russian Stores

Written by Bill Toulas
Published on September 18, 2021

It appears that Google and Apple are prepared to do anything it takes in order to retain their presence in the Russian market. In a totally anti-democratic move that neither cared to justify, the tech giants removed the “Smart Voting” app from their respective Russian stores right before the elections were about to begin in the country. The particular app promotes a political plan devised by Navalny on how to methodically remove power from President Putin by voting other candidates in various regions, so it’s not exactly something that goes unnoticed by the Russian state.

The platform was attacked last month by hackers who had very clear motives to steal data about registered members, obviously supporters of Navalny, and then leak them online for intimidation. To ensure that the message was delivered, several individuals who had registered on the “Smart Voting” platform were visited by the police and questioned on their motives. These people were warned that Navalny is currently a convicted criminal, so supporting him makes them enemies of the state and a risk to national security.

Amnesty International has characterized Navalny, an anti-corruption activist and political opponent of Putin, a ‘Prisoner of Conscience,’ while several human rights protection groups have condemned Russian authorities for using torture against him. Last summer, the man was poisoned with a Novichok nerve agent, an incident that had the international community pointing the finger at FSB agents and the Russian state. In summary, no matter whether or not one agrees with Navalny’s political positions, that’s not how elections are run in countries that want to call themselves democratic.

As for Google and Apple, who met with a Russian Federation Council commission on Thursday, seeing them crack under political pressure is neither surprising nor unexpected, but it’s certainly disappointing. People in Russia are already using VPNs to source the app by pretending they are based outside the country, but of course, not everyone knows how to use a VPN tool, and these are very tightly controlled by Roskomnadzor right now anyway. Some resided to Telegram groups to coordinate the targeted candidate voting, but as BBC revealed, hackers have been bombarding the instant messaging platform, trying to take it offline since Thursday night, so no channels are safe.

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