Russian Government Abuses IP Law, Regular Law To Shut Down Alexey Navalny's 'Smart Voting' App

from the hashtag-just-Putin-things dept

The Russian government sent KGB 2.0 (the FSB) to kill opposition leader Alexey Navalny late last summer. That effort failed. Navalny survived the poisoning attempt to continue to be a thorn in Putin’s side. So, the Russian government did the next best thing. It tossed Navalny in jail, revoking his suspended sentence to imprison him in a “corrective labor colony.”

That still hasn’t managed to silence Navalny to the Russian ruling party’s satisfaction. He’s still capable of moving masses and shaping elections despite being confined. One of his efforts — Smart Voting — continues to make things difficult for the dominant “United Russia” party. Debuting in November 2018, Smart Voting aids in the consolidation of opposition votes in areas where parliamentary races are close enough they can possibly be swung in favor of opposition candidates.

The effort to silence Navalny continues, with the Russian government trying to kill off his Smart Voting project. Its first move was to secure a court order forbidding Google and Yandex from returning search results for the term “smart voting.” Enjoy this incredibly bold blast of extreme shadiness that does everything but provide a phonetic pronunciation of the word “corruption.”

The Moscow Arbitration Tribunal issued an injunction prohibiting Google and Yandex from creating a list of results for the search query “Smart Voting”. The relevant decisions were made on the website published by the court.

The documents showed that the lawsuit against both companies was brought by Woolintertrade. The main activity of the company is the wholesale of agricultural raw materials. Woolintertrade deals with the purchase and processing of unwashed sheep’s wool in order to sell it. In the summer, the company received approval from Rospatent to register the “Smart Voting” trademark.

So, through the magic of government intervention, a company that has nothing to do with “smart” and/or “voting” managed to secure a trademark during the run-up to an election and talk a court into issuing an injunction that would prevent voters from working together to elect opposition candidates.

This bullshit still didn’t satisfy the Russian government, which has now ordered Google and Apple to boot Navalny’s Smart Voting app from its stores.

Russia demanded this month that Apple and Google remove the app from their stores, saying a refusal to do so would be treated as meddling in its parliamentary election.

Apple and Google did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

On Thursday, Russia said official approaches had been made to the two companies’ chief executives.

The demands worked. The apps were removed. And the worst possible outcome for both companies has been achieved: the gratitude of the thuggish Russian government.

During a daily briefing Friday, President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the Kremlin welcomed Google and Apple’s decisions to comply with the Russian government’s lawful orders.

“Both platforms received a notification and they have apparently decided [to delete the Navalny apps] in accordance with the letter and spirit of the law,” Peskov told reporters.

“We dislike [Smart Voting]. This is just another absolutely provocative attempt that actually harms voters. There’s no other way of treating this,” Interfax quoted Peskov as saying.

Yep, giving Russian citizens the power to loosen United Russia’s grip on national governance is definitely “provocative.” However, it’s definitely not “harmful” to voters… unless Peskov was insinuating those who voted for opposition candidates will be subjected to retaliatory actions by the government they failed to unseat.

As for Apple and Google, refusing to comply was always an option. Why they didn’t refuse remains unclear. I mean, both companies could have just told the Russian government to put it on their respective tabs.

Google, Apple and social media platforms Facebook, Twitter and Telegram have been subject to several months of court-imposed fines totaling several million U.S. dollars for their failure to delete content that Moscow deems illegal, including calls to attend unsanctioned protests.

The only difference here was the dangling threat of criminal prosecution, which may have forced the companies to make the wrong decision for the right reasons: to keep their Russian-based employees from being rounded up and sent away to penal colonies to spend a few years with Navalny and his supporters.

Finally, there’s this censorial cherry on top:

Following a request from Russian authorities, YouTube has blocked access to a video posted by Alexei Navalny’s team with a list of anti-Kremlin candidates it wants voters to back in nationwide parliamentary elections currently underway

That’s right. A complete “fuck you and your YouTube video too” from a government obviously afraid it can’t win a parliamentary election without pulling out all the stops to silence the imprisoned leader of its opposition.

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Companies: apple, google

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Comments on “Russian Government Abuses IP Law, Regular Law To Shut Down Alexey Navalny's 'Smart Voting' App”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

You must be talking about a different Navalny. In this article, we’re talking about Alexei Navalny, the Russian anti-corruption politician that the current Russian government attempted to poison, and then sent off to a labor camp.

If you really DO mean Alexei… here’s a snippet from an easily accessible news release — the only thing related to Nazis that also mentions him:

The photo, published by Mikhail Listov, shows Soviet soldiers lined up with Nazi banners pointed towards the ground in a symbol of defeat. The photograph was taken during a triumphant parade on Red Square to celebrate the Soviet victory.

A court in the far northern city of Arkhangelsk fined Listov 1,000 rubles last month after finding him guilty of publicly displaying Nazi symbols, which are illegal to publish or display under a Russian antiextremism law.

Listov, a staffer for Navalny’s party, was using the poster as a call to Russian patriotism and Russian victory over Naziism on a poster.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re:

"I wonder how many really know about Navalny and his racist, nazi ideas."

You mean the ones you just invented, comrade?

Last I checked most racists aren’t vocal in their support for movements like "Black Lives Matter".

"His activities would not be legal in any western country"

Oh, now I’m interested; feel free to clarify. And preferably with something for which factual reality has your back.

Seriously, there are some questions to be raised around Navalny’s nationalist politics but I guess it’s just the hallmark of a troll that they won’t just settle for valid criticism when they can unload a metric ton of pure bullshit as an argument instead.

Go give Putin his money back, you’re not doing this very well.

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Anonymous Coward says:

as wrong as this obviously is, name one government that wont do whatever it needs to to maintain control, maintain it’s grip on citizens coz i cant think of a single one! no different to industries that are all doing the same thing, backed up by the same governments, the aim being to instill silently, what Hitler failed to do after killing millions! the affect is going to be the same, we wont have very much and we wont own a fucking thing! we wont have any rights and the government will take are all and give us back enough for bread and water each day, just as it was pre-late C20!

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David says:

Re: Re:

You are babbling.

At any rate, in normal Western democracies telling people how to vote in order to achieve a particular result is not only quite legal but very often done. It is called "tactical voting advice". Of course no ruling government enjoys being replaced. Which is why there are election campaigns (and in some countries, arguably downright ridiculous ones). Of both the currently ruling parties as well as the opposition.

There is also a lot of telling how the world will go under if the other party is going to get elected. Also up to being downright ridiculous.

What isn’t being done is jailing the opponents and poisoning them. That kind of thing is sort of frowned upon.

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That One Guy (profile) says:

At least be an honest criminal empire

At this point they might as well drop any pretense of ‘elections’ and ‘democracy’ and just make it a law that only ‘state approved’ political candidates are valid options and it’s a criminal offense to suggest otherwise and a capitol offense to be a non-state approved candidate.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Overt violence is not as effective as complex psychological manipulation in establishing control over other people. Pretending to act in good faith and care about those who depend on you is essential in all kinds of abusive relationships. It: 1) makes it much harder for the victim to break off, in a variety of ways; 2) creates a false impression for a lot of outside parties that the relationship is healthy, and perhaps plausible deniability of any fault on the abuser’s side.

I guess similar principles can be thought to apply to more than just families.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Hmm, I suppose, I’m just of the opinion that if someone’s going to be an asshole the least they can do is be an honest asshole, and if they’re going to be this openly corrupt it’s not like coming out and admitting it would be telling people anything not already glaringly obvious, but I guess doing so might rip the veil from people desperately trying to pretend that nothing’s going on, potentially causing a backlash that would make ruling the country slightly more difficult.

David says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

There is no point in being honest if you are in control of the media or at least a relevant part of the narrative. It’s just making things run less smoothly. And that’s particularly relevant when running on communist-style tradition. While your populace is still sufficiently conditioned to rely on what you feed them, you’d just make it harder for everyone involved if you tried educating them to be independent thinkers.

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Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: At least be an honest criminal empire

"At this point they might as well drop any pretense of ‘elections’ and ‘democracy’…"

Putin may be too smart to do that but I’m less sure what his successors will do.

The main issue with Putin is that unlike his "peers" among world dictators, he’s frighteningly good at his job. For the average russian in the street whose political history includes the USSR, the collapse of the country, and Yeltzin, Putin may come off as dictatorial but they’ll forgive him that as long as it means the nation prospers.

This, I suppose, is what happens when someone trained to manipulate politics and the economy rather than someone with a bachelors degree in social or political science gets to be president.

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Techdirt is dying says:

Another person, you know NOTHING about. What about Volkov got some shady bitcoin transactions? Twenty one fucking million bucks.

Russian activist do that? Without jobs, in jail? You still believe in that? Also, Baiden supports Navalny, while Trump know nothing about him.

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Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

"…so I find it extremely difficult to argue that TechDirt’s authors are unprincipled jingoistic hypocrites."

Ah, but tavarisch, is natural that the good people of the world harp on pig-dog bourgoisie imperialist nation, da?

Is less natural for good people of the world to harp on utopian rodina, governed wisely by glorious comrade Putin, nyet?

So if you do, must be jingoist pig-dog imperialist lapdog troll.

/s before someone thinks i wrote that out of a St. Petersburg troll farm…

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I have to say, you can always tell an individual’s irrelevance whenever they lead off with some sad attempt at claiming the website they’re ranting and rebutting on is dead. Apparently the best rationale you knuckledraggers have is to claim that a website reporting news you don’t like is somehow both so insignificant to deserve mockery, but also notable enough that you have to white knight whatever cause you think you’re fighting for.

Wipe the comrade cum off your face, fam. It’s a fucking pathetic look.

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