In an article datelined Moscow, September 17, 2021, Reuters reported that Alphabet's Google and Apple have removed jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny's tactical voting app from their stores, thereby removing one of the last few means Navalny had of bypassing Vladimir Putin’s censors.
The U.S. tech giants removed an anti-government tactical voting app from their stores on the first day of a parliamentary election after Russia accused the U.S. tech firms of meddling in its internal affairs.
Allies of Navalny, President Vladimir Putin's fiercest domestic opponent, planned to use the mobile app to organize a tactical voting campaign to deal a blow to Putin’s party, United Russia. Reuters reported Putin’s United Russia is expected to win despite a ratings slump after the biggest crackdown on the Kremlin's critics in years.
Ars Technica reported Ivan Zhdanov, a Navalny ally based abroad, said on Friday the removal amounted to political censorship.
"Removing the Navalny app from stores is a shameful act of political censorship. Russia's authoritarian government and propaganda will be thrilled," Ivan Zhdanov, who is director of the Navalny-founded Anti-Corruption Foundation and a politician in the Russia of the Future opposition party, wrote on Twitter. While candidates associated with Navalny are banned from the election, the Navalny app was designed to help voters coalesce around opposition candidates who are on the ballot.
As noted by NBC News, the now-removed "tactical voting app allows voters who do not want President [Vladimir] Putin's ruling political party, United Russia, to win the election to organize around a single opposition candidate in each of the 225 electoral districts in an effort to boost the number of non-Kremlin-approved politicians in power." Since mid-August, the Russian government has "threatened Apple and Google with fines if they didn't remove Navalny's tactical voting app from the App Store and Google Play store," NBC News wrote.
In an apparently related move, "Apple also disabled its Private Relay feature in Russia," The Washington Post reported. "The feature conceals the user's IP address and browsing data, offering protection against government surveillance online."
Now, here’s the important part of the story that we could only find on Fox Business:
Zhdanov also shared what he said was an email from Apple about the app’s removal.
"We are writing to notify you that your application will be removed from the Russia App Store because it includes content that is illegal in Russia," Apple reportedly said, adding that Navalny’s group had been deemed an "extremist" group by the Russian government.
And, as Fox Business reported, this is not the first time that Apple and Google have been accused of betraying pro-democracy activists and caving to authoritarian governments.
In 2019, Apple removed two apps that pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong had used to track and dodge police — just one day after China’s state-run People’s Daily paper accused the company of being "an accomplice to the rioters."
Google, meanwhile, removed a game from its Chinese Google Play store that had allowed users to play as a Hong Kong protester. The search giant said that "The Revolution of Our Times" violated its content rules because it depicted "sensitive events."
Does this whole “we’re taking it down because extremism” sound familiar?
It should because that’s the justification Apple, Google and Amazon used to take down Parler, the free speech ap to which many conservatives migrated after Twitter began arbitrarily taking down conservative commentary and news (and demonstrably true reporting on the 2020 election) as extremist or hate speech.
And it is particularly relevant in light of an August 13 Department of Homeland Security National Terrorism Advisory System Bulletin, which, among other things advised that:
Law enforcement have expressed concerns that the broader sharing of false narratives and conspiracy theories will gain traction in mainstream environments, resulting in individuals or small groups embracing violent tactics to achieve their desired objectives.
DHS will continue to identify and evaluate calls for violence, including online activity associated with the spread of disinformation, conspiracy theories, and false narratives, by known or suspected threat actors and provide updated information, as necessary.
DHS is also advancing authoritative sources of information to debunk and, when possible, preempt false narratives and intentional disinformation, and providing educational materials to promote resilience to the risks associated with interacting with and spreading disinformation, conspiracy theories and false narratives.
Got that? The same liars and wreckers who are right now facilitating the illegal alien invasion of our southern border are, in the lead up to the 2022 and 2024 elections, no doubt with the help of the oligarchs running Google and Apple (and probably Twitter and Facebook too), going to advance “authoritative sources of information to debunk and, when possible, preempt false narratives and intentional disinformation.”
And who gets to decide who are the “extremists” and what is a “false narrative” or “intentional disinformation?” Why the people in power of course – meaning Putin in Russia, Xi in China, the Mullahs in Iran, and Joe Biden’s administration here in America.
Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny