Navalny allies accuse Telegram and other censorship platforms | News from the economy
Allies of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny accuse YouTube and Telegram of censorship after the video platform and messaging app restricted access to their anti-government voting recommendations for Russia’s parliamentary elections.
The latest accusations came on Saturday, a day after Navalny’s allies previously accused Alphabet’s Google and Apple of collapsing under pressure from the Kremlin after companies removed an app from their stores that activists had hoped to use. against the ruling party in the elections.
Voting began on Friday and continued until late Sunday.
Telegram, the social media platform used by Iranian protesters in Belarus, blocked a “smart vote” channel aimed at defeating ruling party candidates, which featured recommendations for candidates for parliamentary elections in Russia .
The app gives detailed recommendations on who to vote for in order to challenge the party that supports President Vladimir Putin. It is one of the few levers that Navalny’s allies have left behind after a sweeping crackdown this year.
Telegram founder Pavel Durov, who has carved out a libertarian image and resisted past censorship, said the platform would block campaign services, including one used by Navalny’s allies to give recommendations to voters.
He said the decision was made due to a Russian ban on campaigning after polling stations open, which he considered legitimate and similar to bans in many other countries.
Navalny spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh condemned the move.
“It is a real shame when censorship is imposed by private companies who allegedly defend ideas of freedom,” she wrote on Twitter.
Ivan Zhdanov, a political ally of Navalny, said he did not believe in Telegram’s justification and that this decision appeared to have been agreed somehow with Russian authorities.
Late on Saturday, the Navalny camp said YouTube had also removed one of their videos containing the names of 225 candidates they had supported.
“The video presentation of smart voting recommendations for constituencies with the nastiest (United Russia candidates) has also been removed,” they wrote.
Navalny’s camp said it wasn’t a fatal blow, as their voting recommendations were available elsewhere on social media.
But it’s seen as a possible step in Russia’s crackdown on the internet and its standoff with US tech companies.
Russia has for years sought sovereignty over its part of the Internet, where anti-Kremlin politicians have followers and Putin’s critical media operate.
The Navalny team makes extensive use of Google’s YouTube to distribute anti-corruption videos and to broadcast coverage and commentary of the anti-Kremlin protests they have staged.
Russia’s ruling party United Russia, which backs President Vladimir Putin, has retained its parliamentary majority although its performance was slightly weaker than in the last parliamentary elections in 2016 and follows the deepest crackdown on opponents nationals of the Kremlin for years.
Team Navalny’s Telegram feed continued to function normally on Saturday and included links to voter recommendations available in Russia through Google Docs.
On another Telegram feed also used by the team, activists said that Russia asked Google to remove the recommendations from Google Docs and that the American company, in turn, asked Navalny’s team to remove them. to delete.
Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the Reuters news agency.
In his statement, Durov said Google and Apple’s restrictions on the Navalny app set a dangerous precedent and meant Telegram, which is widely used in Russia, was more vulnerable to government pressure.
He said Telegram depended on Apple and Google to function due to their dominance in the mobile operating system market and that its platform could not have withstood a Russian ban from 2018 to 2020 without them.
Russia attempted to block Telegram in April 2018, but lifted the ban more than two years later after ostensibly failing to block it.
“The blocking of applications by Apple and Google is setting a dangerous precedent that will affect free speech in Russia and around the world,” Durov said in a Telegram article.