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.
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.
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:
- Centralized government has too much power.
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).
Private businesses do what the government wants or they’ll find doing business very difficult, if not impossible.
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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