Apple and Google remove opposition voting strategy app from Russian software stores • The Register
A tactical voting app built by allies of jailed political opponent of Vladimir Putin, Alexei Navalny, is now unavailable in Russian Apple and Google app stores following threats of fines from the Kremlin.
Russian lawmaker Andrei Klimov told reporters on Thursday that the Russian Attorney General’s office had sent statutory notifications to Google and Apple ordering the removal of the Navalny app on the grounds that it was collecting data, according to the state-run TASS news agency. personal data of Russian citizens and sought to interfere in national elections. Failure to do so would result in sanctions.
“The app particularly deliberately and illegally disseminates election campaign material in the interest of certain candidates running for positions in elective agencies or against their interests,” Klimov said.
Apple and Google, which claim to comply with local laws where they operate, have taken down the app in Russia, either intentionally or unintentionally contributing to what Navalny supporters have called political censorship in Russia. The application remains available outside the country. Those in Russia who already have the app can still use it.
With app stores out of the way, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has taken the time to cast a shadow over the US government. “We have reason to believe that the US authorities are not completely powerless on this particular issue either,” Lavrov said.
President Putin’s allies are already sowing doubt in the electoral process, claiming that foreign agents from election monitoring organization Golos are plotting to discredit the results, despite hopes that Putin’s United Russia party will remain in power.
The election takes place from September 17 and will last for three days. Many cities elect lawmakers to the State Duma – the lower house of parliament – through electronic voting. Putin himself will vote online. The election also includes the selection of nine Russian regional heads and 39 regional parliaments. This is an important election for Putin as he would prefer to retain close control of the country as the 2024 presidential election looms.
The verboten app in question tells users who to vote tactically, among those running on behalf of 14 parties, to prevent Kremlin-favored candidates from winning. It uses a system called Smart Voting which was designed by Navalny. However, the vast majority of anti-Putin candidates have already been barred from running, including those associated with Navalny.
Yesterday, Ivan Zhdanov, director of the Navalny’s Foundation for Fighting Corruption organization which developed the application, tweeted what appears to be an email from Apple explaining the reason for the removal of the app: Prosecutors claimed the software would interfere with the election and the foundation was viewed as an extremist organization. As such, the app is illegal in Russia. Its website was blocked earlier this month in the country by authorities.
Zhdanov called the withdrawal “a mockery of common sense” and a “huge mistake”. A Tweeter today from Zhdanov said in Russian:
Navalny – leader of the opposition party Russia of the Future, Putin critic and anti-corruption activist – was the victim of nerve poisoning in Novichok in 2020 which he accused the president of orchestrating. The Kremlin has denied any involvement, although he arrested him on his return to Russia after being treated in Berlin for his poisoning. While receiving this treatment outside of Russia, he violated his parole on a 2014 embezzlement conviction – which he said was brought against him for political reasons – and was sentenced to 30 months’ imprisonment. jail.
His poisoning and detention were condemned by the West and sparked anti-Kremlin protests in Russia. In response to the unrest, the Russian government strangled Twitter in March and ordered social networks to remove posts related to any “participation in unauthorized mass events” as they considered them illegal activity for teens.
Google was fined $ 40,700 for failing to fully comply.
Today Roskomnadzor, the Russian federal body that monitors, controls and censors Russian media, announced that it sent a letter to Twitter asking why the Moscow City Election Commission account was restricted. The missive accused Twitter of foreign interference in the election. ®