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.