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14 Sep 2021

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

Russia: Govt. seeks to 'rein in' big tech ahead of election, censor opposition


Russia Ratchets Up Preelection Pressure Against Western Tech Giants, 11 September 2021

In the run-up to the September 17-19 national legislative elections, Russia has purged the field of almost all genuine opposition politicians and implemented multiple legal amendments that critics say could facilitate fraud.

And the battle against dissent has also been raging online.

In recent months, Russia has ratcheted up its campaign to rein in Western tech giants, stopping short of blocking the platforms outright but issuing hefty fines against Google, Facebook, and Twitter and demanding that they remove content the government has deemed offensive, dangerous, or lewd.

On September 9, the state-run news agency RAPSI reported that the Moscow prosecutor's office had sent a letter to the chief operating officers of Apple and Google, Tim Cook and Sundar Pichai, with demands that their companies block a smartphone app run by the team of jailed opposition leader Aleksei Navalny...

Before voters begin casting ballots on September 17, the app is designed to alert registered users to local candidates who have the best chance of defeating rivals from the ruling United Russia party, which Navalny describes as a deeply corrupt "party of crooks and thieves."...

It's also part of an effort by Russia to enforce complete compliance with restrictive Russian laws by major tech companies, including Western tech giants and Russian ones like Yandex, which reportedly also received the letter from the prosecutor...