Apple and Google pull Alexei Navalny app in Russia; opposition activists accuse Big Tech of caving to censorship

Opposition activists in Russia accused Apple and Google of caving in to Kremlin pressure on Friday after they removed an anti-government tactical voting app, devised by allies of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, from their app stores on the first day of a parliamentary election.

Apple's App Store on iPhone
Apple’s App Store on iPhone

The app provides detailed voter recommendations in an effort to thwart the electoral chances of the ruling United Russia party which supports President Vladimir Putin.

The app iss unavailable on Apple’s App Store and Google Play for Russian users. Reuters reports that previously downloaded versions of the app no longer work.

Alexander Marrow and Tom Balmforth for Reuters:

Members of the upper house of parliament met Google and Apple representatives in the run-up to the election to tell them to remove the app or face serious consequences including fines and criminal prosecution.

A court outlawed Navalny’s political movement as extremist in June, backing complaints from Moscow’s prosecutor that its activists were trying to destabilise Russia, a ruling condemned by the West at the time as a blow against freedom.

Leonid Volkov, an ally of Navalny, accused Google and Apple of buckling under what he described as a Kremlin campaign of blackmail. “This shameful day will live long in the memory,” Volkov said on the Telegram messaging service. Ivan Zhdanov, another Navalny ally, called the companies’ action a mistake and “a shameful act of political censorship.”

Andrei Klimov, a senior senator from the ruling party, said he was pleased by the U.S. tech giants’ behaviour.

MacDailyNews Take by SteveJack: The weaponization of private corporations by authoritarian/totalitarian governments or governments with authoritarian/totalitarian leanings works like this:

  1. Centralized government has too much power.

  2. Centralized government uses that power (regulation, taxation, etc.) to threaten private businesses to bend to their will (regardless of any constitutional restraints on the government itself; it uses private businesses to enforce unconstitutional actions that the government cannot legally impose).

  3. Private businesses do what the government wants or they’ll find doing business very difficult, if not impossible.

  4. Big tech, which also has too much concentrated power, bans people, apps, and censors media outlets for questioning the government or reporting facts that could potentially damage government office holders/seekers.

That Apple has become the face on the screen – along with Google, Twitter, Facebook – in their own “1984” revolutionary ad, is sadly ironic.

An Apple that lived up to its own iconic “1984” branding effort would throw hammers, not repeatedly cower in a corner, bowing to every government’s authoritarian whim, whispering, “Thank you sir, may I have another?”

Apple’s leadership is morally bankrupt.

Apple’s leadership is very good at using its vast resources to order and elegantly assemble parts cheaply in order to sell them at huge margins, generating enormous profits, but, in any time of even the remotest stress, it spinelessly lacks a moral compass even as it repeatedly proclaims its own particular brand of morality in an unending orgy of pitiful, often-nauseating virtue signaling.

I long to see an Apple again with a leader who will say “No,” not just when it’s convenient, and speak truth to power not just when it’s easy, but when it’s hard.

As Potter Stewart said so well: “Censorship reflects a society’s lack of confidence in itself.”

Mass surveillance, too, 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

SteveJack is a long-time Macintosh user, web designer, multimedia producer, and contributor to the MacDailyNews Opinion section.

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26 Comments

  1. Apple caved yet again. But like MDN has repeatedly pointed out, apples on-device csam scanning will be co-opted by Russia/China/leftist everywhere. Apple says they will resist, but this shows they won’t and can’t. Which is why they have to nuke this bs on-device scanning and snooping. It WILL be co-opted.

  2. The 60’s mindset of questioning and resisting the govt’s overreach has evolved into the “whatever you want/because you said so,” posture of the 2020’s. Cook once knew of this mindset…but the power of control and the fear of losing it is in action.

    “Whatever it Takes” is a concessionary, having no resolve and dangerous mindset seen here, but it is and will continue to corrode everything. Interestingly and ironically, its a-moral DNA has lived long and strong in Russia and other authoritarian & communist govts.

    We need some real balls…nearly everywhere. Thank you Mr. Durham for keeping a little hope alive.

  3. Big yawn here. Just another example of a company abiding by the legal mechanisms of the country in which they operate. Yet MDN posts a lunatic’s diatribe devolving to the played out “big tech” 1984 nonsense. Needless attempts to intellectualize a simple matter make me laugh.

    1. Thank you Apple APOLOGIST for caving to dictator demands, spying on private citizens. censoring opposition voices and no DEFENSE OF FREEDOM!!!

      Crawl under a rock where you belong…

  4. Apply following “legal mechanisms of the country in which they operate,” to the Uyghur situ in China…as if merely perfunctory and necessary and your laughing becomes sad and tragic.

    The Navalny situ may not involve the health, well-being of human life–yet–but it’s on the same line of devolution. Though knee-jerk reaction might respond with “that’s sensational,” it’s not a stretch to say a similar mindset of permissiveness was alive and well in WW11 Germany. I’m sure the mindset was built on, “that’s not that bad” and “it’s what’s needed.”

    Freedom compromised is rarely a path without profound consequences…maybe in “your time,” but also in the longer horizon. Corrosion can take awhile.

  5. I don’t know how blind one must be to still believe “we will never cave to government requests” with regards to CSAM on-device technique’s versus them always – ALWAYS – toeing the “must follow the local law” line that so far they have 100% adhered to, never once standing to a countries immoral laws / intentions ever because of higher principles.

    Principles as a mere marketing scheme, the ultimate cynicism.

    A big bunch of high-horse hypocrites who will always sell you out to feed their bottom-line when it is decision time.

  6. Amazing how citizens of terrorist nations are so humble. Let’s add a few more to the totalitarian list…

    Lose the plot and betray humanity, accuse others of outlandish things like a country has a weapons of mass destruction program, someone stole an erection, so that any topic is about themselves, as they develop egos bigger than the known universe.
    Gaia steps in to set things right. Thank you COVID-19 for all you’ve done to keep the citizens of terrorist nations at home.

    There, fixed that for you, never send a citizen from a superpower nation to describe how evil they are.

      1. Hate is one of the major exports of the country so this comes no surprise. I often wonder about the stolen election. You mean to tell me that a bunch of incompetents actually stole an election? Sounds like election security was about as effective as micro softie’s security approach akin to leaving leaving an unlocked car with the windows rolled down and a big sign across the windshield, please don’t steal me. Not to mention that the evidence about such a steal hasn’t been brought forth. Could be due to both sides being totally incompetent. Sure seems to fit what’s happening.

        Twiddle Dee and Twiddle Dumb.
        Thanks to COVID-19 they are on the run.
        Back home alone finally at last.
        So now their citizens can enjoy their hateful blasts.

          1. I watched it the first time you posted it earlier on this thread. The redundancy is strong is this one. Don’t feel too bad though, I’m sure there is some third or fifth rate peer nation that is as incompetent with elections as your country is with election security and ability to find evidence. Then again, maybe not.
            At any rate, it’s hilarious to watch the whining. Thanks COVID-19 for keeping them where they belong.

        1. Tru Dat. And JOEY’s been spewing hate ever since.
          Between President Obama- The FIRST Mainstream African American who was “articulate, bright and CLEAN” to proudly voting, on the Senate floor, on record and alongside racists and segregationists to keep Blacks segregated from whites- Based solely on the color of a Black mans skin- JOEY’s been at it for nearly fifty years.
          And WOW, the sheer volume of his racist crap- It’s mind numbing.

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