Russia threatens Apple, Google with fines over Navalny team’s app

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Moscow

Russia’s government internet censors have threatened to hit Apple and Google with fines if they don’t delete an app developed by jailed opposition leader Alexey Navalny’s team.

The app urges Russian voters to defeat President Vladimir Putin’s ruling party in the upcoming parliamentary elections.

Navalny’s movement was formally labelled an “extremist” organization by Russian authorities over the summer, putting him and his supporters in the same ranks as al Qaeda and the Taliban in the eyes of Russian law.

In February, Navalny was immediately arrested upon return to Russia from Germany, where he spent months recovering from a poisoning attack that he and U.S. officials accuse Putin himself of ordering.

His jailing prompted mass protests across the country, resulting in thousands of arrests.
The censor, Roskomnadzor, told Apple and Google that the “Smart Voting” app must be deleted from its app stores, citing the Navalny group behind it having been designated an extremist organization, Interfax news agency reported on Thursday.

If the companies fail to comply, Moscow “may also consider [it] as interference of the U.S. companies in Russian elections,” the article stated.

As of Friday, neither platform had deleted the app. The demands are just the latest test for Western tech giants as authorities in Moscow continue to demand compliance with controversial legislation that has given the Kremlin ever-growing control over the internet, and everything on it, within Russia’s borders.

Fines against Western internet companies have already piled up as many refuse to comply with new laws, including the requirement that all Russian users’ data be stored domestically on Russian servers, and that service providers share decryption keys if Russia’s special services ask for them, so they can scrutinize encrypted user data.

Facebook has already been slapped with nearly $600,000 in fines, followed by Google, which owes about $383,000 dollars thus far, according to a report on internet freedoms in Russia done by the advocacy group Reporters Without Borders.—AP

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