Apple and Google employees reportedly faced political coercion and prosecution threats in Russia over opposition voting app
Jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s election app “Vote Smart” was taken down by Google and Apple, reportedly under pressure from the Kremlin as Russian parliamentary elections kick-off. Per a Washington Post report, Google employees in Russia were apparently threatened with criminal prosecution if the app was allowed to remain on the Play Store, forcing Mountain View to accede to the Russian government’s demands.
The Vote Smart app allowed Russian voters to identify parties and individual representatives in their localities with the greatest likelihood of beating the local United Russia candidate, even if their political views aren’t fully in consonance.
As governments in authoritarian countries like Russia and China increasingly exert pressure on tech brands, the removal of “Vote Smart” sets a worrying precedent: Apple, Google, and others might be forced to continue acceding to demands with questionable human rights implications when non-compliance puts the lives of their local employees at risk.
Putin’s United Russia party is widely expected to win in elections that are reportedly marred by procedural violations. Navalny himself is currently in jail, following his recovery from an assassination attempt.