Apple and Google meet with Russian legislators over Navalny’s app

Apple and Google were invited to a meeting with Russian legislators’ on 16 September over their refusal to remove Alexei Navalny’s app Smart Voting from their app stores. The app, which was created in 2019, promotes candidates considered most likely to defeat Kremlin-backed candidates. The companies’ refusal to remove the app from their app stores amounts to election interference, Russian authorities explained.

Refusal to attend would have ‘amount[ed] to automatically admitting their involvement’ in the parliamentary elections, Director of the Information and Press Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Maria Zakharova underlined. Google’s representative did not have the power of attorney and therefore couldn’t be questioned, while Apple merely cited legal subtleties as the reason for not removing the app.

Russian authorities and legislators have stated that for tech giants, possible consequences include tightening laws regarding foreign digital platforms conducting subversive illegal activities, criminal consequences under Russian law for specific structures and people associated with Google and Apple, as well as fines for the companies by Roskomnadzor in case they refuse to remove the app.