Monday, September 27, 2021

Smart Voting App Removed From App Store

Justin Sherman (tweet, Reuters):

Earlier this month, when the Kremlin told multiple Big Tech companies to suppress political opposition amid nationwide elections in Russia, their answer was unequivocal: no. Yet just two weeks later, Apple and Google deleted from their app stores the Smart Voting app, opposition leader Alexey Navalny and his party’s primary tool for consolidating votes against Vladimir Putin’s regime. Then Telegram and Google-owned YouTube also restricted access to the recommendations for opposition candidates that Navalny was sharing on these platforms.

Francisco Tolmasky:

Just like during the Hong Kong protests, Apple has again been pressured to remove an app for political reasons. This time a tactical voting app in Russia. Without side-loading, the @AppStore becomes a single bottleneck for governments to censor dissent.


One thing that baffles me every time this happens, is that I wouldn’t want this responsibility if I was Apple. I’d want to stay distraction free, focused on fun stuff like AR or new iPhone cameras, not getting needlessly sucked into heavy decisions about international politics.


2 Comments RSS · Twitter

One of the big problems in the App Stores is the proliferation of fake apps, and with this case it was alarmingly bad. When real apps were removed, all the fake ones stayed, and could be found and installed.
Why this issue was not addressed at all?

I cannot comment on the validity of any specific voting app, but this is still chilling on the whole. Let's say Russia, as any sovereign nation can and has done in the past, orders the apps to be pulled, iOS users are simply done. There is no recourse to get that content. At least with Android, let alone Mac OS (which is also decreasingly harder to do), Windows, and Linux, you can sideload the application, but the iOS app store install mandate is such a consumer hostile decision. Shame on Apple. Let them curate their store any which way from Sunday, but people need an escape hatch for just such reasons.

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