Betraying their supposedly sacred commitment to human rights, Apple and Google bowed to Vladimir Putin’s oppression on Friday.
They did so by removing a so-called “Smart Voting” app from the Russian app stores. And they did it on the very same day that voting began in the Russian parliamentary (Duma) elections.
Created by the Russian opposition journalist and political prisoner Alexei Navalny , the app was designed to help elect opposition politicians. Smart Voting is particularly valuable in Russia, where Putin’s cronies have stacked the deck against anyone who might challenge Putin’s mafia state . Many candidates have been banned, rallies curtailed, and organization restricted. Navalny’s organization has been listed as an unlawful extremist group. Putin’s intent in these elections is clear. He wants to see his ruling United Russia party retain control, alongside a series of pro-Putin but very nominally independent parties.
Smart Voting clearly didn’t fit within that agenda. So Putin threatened criminal sanctions against Apple and Google unless they removed the app. Celebrating their defeat of the tech giants on Friday, Putin’s cronies declared a “turned page.”
What do Google and Apple say?
As with U.S. multinationals and human rights in Hong Kong , they’re full of hot air.
I asked Google how this action comports with their website statement that “Our mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”
Google had not responded to a request for comment as of publication. But perhaps that statement should be changed to “Our mission is to organize the world’s information and make it accessible and useful to anyone in a democracy. Those who live under authoritarian regimes should conduct a Google search for alternative means of information access.”
I asked Apple how its removal of the app was compatible with its pledge that “Where [national law and U.N. human rights standards] are in conflict, we respect national law while seeking to respect the principles of internationally recognized human rights.”
Some more “seeking” might be required.
Still, the implosion of Russian democracy is at once obvious and tragic. This election sham was emphasized on Friday, as Vladimir Zhirinovsky ranted about the ease of online voting. Leader of the supposedly independent Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (viscerally xenophobic and ultra-nationalist, the LDPR is thus possibly the most inaccurately named political party in the world), Zhirinovsky is a drunk pro-Putin puppet. Not exactly aligning with his bigoted values, Zhirinovsky is also widely rumored to be a homosexual.
Regardless, Zhirinovsky encapsulates why Russians need apps such as Navalny’s. Those apps aren’t simply a means to identify opposition figures, they are a conduit to cutting through the corruption , deception, and distraction that defines Putin’s political strategy. If U.S. technology companies stand for anything, it should be for the right to vote. Putin undermines that right when it comes to U.S. elections. There is no excuse for Apple and Google to help him do so at home.
If it’s a choice between market access and sacred values, values should come first. Tim Cook and Sundar Pichai should be ashamed.
Source: Washington Examiner : Apple and Google join Putin’s KGB
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