Apple Raises New Concerns With Ripping Russian Apps | WGN 720 radio



Berkeley, Calif. (AP) – Leading technology companies operating around the world have long promised to comply with local laws and protect their civil rights when doing business. But when Apple and Google disrupted Russia’s demands and removed politically opposed apps from their local app store, two of the world’s most successful companies succumbed to undemocratic orders and stabilized. There was concern that it would be more comfortable than maintaining a stream of profits. Support user rights.

The app in question, called smart voting, was a tool to organize opposition to Russian President Vladimir Putin ahead of the weekend’s elections. Last week, a ban imposed by the world’s richest and most powerful business pair inspired supporters of free elections and free speech.

“This is bad news for democracy and we are arguing around the world,” said Natalia Krapiva, technical counsel for Access Now, a free internet group. “We expect to see other dictators emulate Russian tactics.”

Tech companies that provide services to consumers, from search to social media to apps, have long been a tightrope walker in many of the world’s least democratic countries. As Apple, Google, and other big companies like Amazon, Microsoft, and Facebook have grown stronger over the past decade, the government’s ambitions have also begun to harness this power for their own ends. ..

“Now this is a poster of political repression,” said Professor Sasha Mainlas of Penn State University, who studies the issue of online censorship. Google and Apple “have increased the chances of this happening again.”

Neither Apple nor Google responded to requests for comment from The Associated Press when news of the app’s removal emerged last week. Both have remained silent this week.

According to those directly aware of the issue, Google has faced legal demands from Russian regulators and the threat of criminal prosecution against individual employees if they fail to comply. The same person said Russian police visited Google’s Moscow office last week and enforced a court order blocking the app. The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity for the confidentiality of the matter.

Google’s own employees reportedly blew up the company’s cave for Putin’s benefit by posting internal messages and images suggesting the app’s removal.

This kind of reaction within Google seemed to contradict the company’s ambitions with the old corporate motto “Don’t Be Evil” adopted by co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin 23 years ago. , Has become more common in recent years. Page and Brin, whose family fled the former Soviet Union to the United States when they were young, are no longer involved in the day-to-day running of Google, and their motto has been shelved for a long time.

Meanwhile, Apple has posted a noble “human rights pledge” on its website, but a close reading of the statement suggests that the company will comply with the government if there is a conflict between the legal orders of the country. government and human rights. to augment. “If national law and international human rights standards differ, we follow higher standards,” reads. “If they are in conflict, we will respect national law while striving to respect internationally recognized human rights principles.

According to a recent report by the nonprofit Freedom House in Washington, global internet freedom has declined for the fifth year in a row, with more countries than ever in “non-violent political, social and religious discourse.” The arrest of an Internet user caused “unprecedented tension”. Authorities have suspended internet access in at least 20 countries and 21 states have blocked access to social media platforms, according to the report.

For the seventh year in a row, China tops the list of the worst environments for internet freedom. However, there are several forms of such threats. For example, Turkey’s new social media regulations require content deemed to be “obnoxious” to be removed within 48 hours of notification on a platform with more than one million users per day. Otherwise, you run the risk of increasing penalties such as fines, advertising bans, and bandwidth limits.

Russia, meanwhile, has been added to the “existing regulatory maze in which international tech companies must navigate at the national level,” according to Freedom House. Overall online freedom in the United States also declined for the fifth year in a row. The group cited conspiracy theories and false information about the 2020 election, as well as surveillance, harassment and arrests in response to racially unjust protests.

Large tech companies generally agree to abide by country-specific rules regarding content removal and other issues in order to do business in those countries. This could range from blocking Holocaust denial messages in Germany and elsewhere in Europe to total censorship of opposition parties like Russia.

The expulsion of the app has been widely criticized by opposition politicians. Leonid Volkov, the chief strategist of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny, wrote on Facebook that the two companies “surrendered to the Kremlin’s blackmail”.

Navalny’s ally Ivan Zhdanov said on Twitter that a team of politicians are considering suing the two companies. He also ridiculed the movement. “Expectations: the government cuts the Internet. Reality: The Internet is afraid of shutting down on its own.

Flashbacks can encourage one or both companies to rethink their commitment to doing business in Russia. Google made a similar move by removing the search engine from mainland China in 2010 after the Communist government began censoring search results and videos on YouTube.

Russia is not a major market for Apple, which expects annual sales to approach $ 370 billion this year, or for Google’s parent company Alphabet, which expects sales to approach $ 370 billion. reach $ 250 billion this year. But profit is profit.

“If you want to take a fundamental stance on human rights and freedom of expression, there are tough choices to make when leaving the market,” said Kurt Opsar, corporate lawyer for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights advocacy group. Declared. ..

Ortutay reported from Oakland, Calif. Associated Press writers Daria Litvinova from Moscow and Kelvin Chan from London contributed to the story.



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