Google, Apple pull opposition’s voting app in Russia
On the first day of elections in Russia, both Google and Apple have removed the app ‘Vote Smart’ from their respective stores on the territory of Russia. The companies had restricted access to the app in their services across Russia on 17 September by 8 am Moscow, according to Russian officials. This app is developed by the Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny and tells voters which candidates are likely to defeat those backed by Russian authorities.
Both Google and Apple were warned by the Russian Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media (Roskomnadzor) to remove the ‘Vote Smart’ app under a threat of major fines, as it allegedly constitutes illegal interference in the elections. According to Bloomberg, the app was already banned by the Russian authorities this month. Russian courts also banned any online references to ‘smart voting’ and declared Navalny’s organizations ‘extremist.’
Last week, Russia’s Foreign Ministry summoned US Ambassador John Sullivan over this issue. Representatives of Apple and Google were invited to a meeting in the upper house of Russia’s parliament, the Federation Council to discuss the withdrawal of the app. According to the Russian authorities, possible consequences for the tech giants 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.
Google and Apple did not comment on this issue at this time.