Tech giants Apple and Google have removed an app meant to coordinate protest voting in the Russian elections.
The decision on Friday came after Russian authorities, who claim the app is illegal, threatened to prosecute local employees of Apple and Google, a sharp escalation in the Kremlin’s campaign to rein in the country’s largely uncensored internet.
A person familiar with Google s decision said the authorities had named specific individuals who would face prosecution, prompting it to remove the app, reports The New York Times.
The person declined to be identified for fear of angering the Russian government. Google has more than 100 employees in the country.
The app was created and promoted by allies of the opposition leader Aleksei A. Navalny, who were hoping to use it to consolidate the protest vote in each of Russia’s 225 electoral districts, the report said.
It disappeared from the two platforms just as voting got underway in the three-day parliamentary election. A
Navalny’s team reacted with outrage to the decision, suggesting the companies had made a damaging concession to the Russians.
“Removing the Navalny app from stores is a shameful act of political censorship,” an aide to Navalny, Ivan Zhdanov, said on Twitter.
“Russia’s authoritarian government and propaganda will be thrilled,” Zhdanov added.
The decisions also drew criticism from free-speech activists in the West.