In Russia, Apple and Google Employees Muscle By State

Earlier this month, when the Kremlin told many Big Tech companies to suppress political opposition across the country election in Russia, their answer is not clear: no. Even two weeks later, Apple and Google Deposed from their app store the Smart Voting app, opposition leader Alexey Navalny and his party’s main tool for consolidating votes against Vladimir Putin’s regime. Then Telegram and Google also owned YouTube withheld access to recommendations for opposition candidates shared by Navalny on the platforms. Putin of course happy.

The sudden kneeling on the U.S. tech platform has not only damaged the opposition’s ability to communicate with the Russian people. It also marked the risky effectiveness of a new Kremlin policy: Force foreign tech firms to put employees on the ground, to force them and put them at risk of making the Kremlin bid. For all that politicians and analysts around the world have talked about censoring the internet in technical terms, this episode is a strong reminder that the old forces can be very tight-lipped about holding on to a web state. .

The Putin regime has long relied on thuggery to repression, from the beating of protesters and a botched Navalny’s assassination attempt CAPTIVITY him while he was still recovering from a stroke. So it’s no surprise that after Navaly’s imprisonment he was motivated mass nationwide protests that the Kremlin will try to curb every possible election risk, including heavily armed U.S. tech companies.

One of Putin’s biggest targets is Navalny’s Smart Voting project, which has had success over the past two years in disseminating candidates ’recommendations to interested voters to take parliamentary seats away from Putin’s ruling party. , the United Russia. That is why Russia’s internet regulator is useless ask that American tech platforms censored Smart Voting. Russian mobile network providers have done so fray Russia’s full access to Google Documents, simply because Navalny’s group posted a document listing United Russia’s challengers. But in opposition to Apple and Google’s removal of the opposition app, the regime is shifting a code to the muscle.

In July, Putin signed a law requiring foreign information technology companies operating in the Russian market to open offices in the country. The Kremlin said it was to ensure compliance with Russia’s national security laws, but was really about getting bodies on the ground to bully. Not every platform has set up shop yet (Twitter remains a holdout), but Apple and Google have. So if they don’t meet the demands of censorship, the Kremlin sent armed men who sit in Google’s Google offices for hours. The parliament is also in Russia called representatives from both Google and Apple offices in a session on the Navalny app, where they were mocked and threatened. The government reportedly named specific Google employees who would be charged if the company didn’t delete the app, and for the same purpose it went to Apple.

And, then, the next morning, both companies folded and removed Smart Voting from their app stores. Apple further agreed harm Private Relay in Russia, part planned to ensure that when browsing the internet using Safari, no entity can see the user’s identity and what they are viewing. This undoubtedly strengthens the ability of the Russian Federal Security Service (already established) to monitor citizens ’traffic online. YouTube, used by Russia in opposition, then took a video in which Navalny’s camp listed the names of leading opposition candidates, and the Telegram blocked access to Navalny’s election services.

The debacle lays the wrong guidance on decades of American “internet Freedom” rhetoric pushed the view that Western tech companies operating in state authorities will prioritize democracy. During the Arab Spring, for example, many American pundits neglected the significantly on local blogs and citizens organizing to mark the events as a “Twitter Revolution.” A 2010 speech by secretary of state Hillary Clinton who spoke of the ways internet authorities used the internet to their advantage but still reflected the prevailing view that many Western tech in dictatorships were promoting “freedom.” In another data that points to the opposite, it is the physical presence of Russian companies that makes them vulnerable to Putin’s will.

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