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Apple and Google Bow to Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin takes part in a video link at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow, Russia, November 26, 2020. (Sputnik/Aleksey Nikolskyi/Kremlin via Reuters)

Apple and Google, which are happy to advertise their wokeness in the domestic capacity, continue to sacrifice their stated values in exchange for access to markets controlled by autocratic regimes. We’ve already seen plenty of examples of this with regard to China, but the latest news is out of Russia, where the tech giants removed an app that was being used by Vladamir Putin’s political opponents.

My former colleague Tom Rogan has the details:

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.”

As of now, Apple and Google are silent about how this decision squares with their stated corporate values.

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It’s all familiar and boring, the recasting of an American archetype into a new mold to instruct, because they can’t come up with archetypes of their own.