Russia is stepping up pressure by threatening to fine U.S. technology companies for failing to block access to content related to a protest drive led by jailed opposition leader Alexey Navalny ahead of this week’s parliamentary elections, the latest move in the authoritarian government’s escalating squeeze on the Internet.
Legislators Thursday singled out Apple Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google for failing to block access to content related to a protest drive led by jailed opposition leader Alexey Navalny. Regulators also threatened to dramatically increase fines on the companies. Navalny’s so-called smart voting initiative aims to concentrate popular discontent to defeat ruling party candidates; Russian courts have banned mention of it online.
The crackdown also led to interruptions in access to Google Docs in Russia after Navalny’s supporters used the text editor to distribute its lists of recommended candidates, according to Roskomsvoboda, an Internet advocacy group. Similar problems were reported earlier in the week with Apple’s App Store, through which a smart voting app was distributed.
President Vladimir Putin, 68, after two decades in power has sharply stepped up efforts to rein in the internet, which has remained a bastion of free speech. Earlier this year after mass protests at Navalny’s imprisonment, Russia slowed down access to Twitter. It also slapped fines of several million dollars on social media companies including Facebook and Google for not deleting calls for demonstrations that were ruled illegal by authorities.
The Kremlin is planning to deliver a resounding victory in weekend voting for the ruling party despite faltering support amid stagnant living standards. Competitors have been pushed off the ballot and Navalny allies have been forced into exile or jailed… The Internet restrictions come as the Kremlin has waged an increasing crackdown on political life, detaining thousands of protesters and jailing opposition activists.
MacDailyNews Take: As Potter Stewart said so well: “Censorship reflects a society’s lack of confidence in itself.”
And that goes for any society, not just Russia.
The only valid censorship of ideas is the right of people not to listen. — Tommy Smothers