Apple and Google removed an app created by allies of opposition leader Alexei Navalny from their app stores on Friday, under pressure from the Russian government. The Smart Voting app is part of Navalny's strategy to promote candidates running against those backed by the Kremlin.
Russian officials made it clear that if Apple and Google failed to remove the app from their online stores, they could be met with fines. Ultimately, according to the Associated Press, Apple agreed to remove the app after meeting with Russia's Parliament on Thursday, and Google removed the app due to what one source said was the possibility of criminal prosecution.
In a Facebook post reported by the Associated Press, Leonid Volkov, a strategist for Navalny, accused the companies of having "bent to the Kremlin's blackmail."
This is not the first time Russian authorities have accused tech giants such as Twitter, Facebook, Google and others of stoking opposition via their platforms, and it likely won't be the last. For Apple and Google, two companies that often promote the value of free expression, such government requests are fast becoming the cost of doing business in countries where that freedom isn't always respected.