San Francisco: Apple and Google have removed an app designed to coordinate protest voting in Russia's elections. The app vanished from the two platforms just as the three-day parliamentary election began.
The decision was made on Friday after Russian authorities, who claim the app is illegal, threatened to prosecute local Apple and Google employees, signalling a sharp escalation in the Kremlin's campaign to rein in the country's largely uncensored internet.
The decisions drew harsh criticism from free-speech activists in the West.
According to The New York Times, a person familiar with Google stated that the authorities had named specific individuals who would face prosecution, prompting the company to remove the app.
The individual did not want to be identified for fear of upsetting the Russian government. Google employs over 100 people in the country.
As per the report, the app was created and promoted by allies of opposition leader Aleksei A. Navalny, who hoped to use it to consolidate the protest vote in each of Russia's 225 electoral districts.
Navalny's team was outraged by the decision, claiming that the companies had made a damaging concession to the Russians.
"Removing the Navalny app from stores is a shameful act of political censorship," Navalny's aide Ivan Zhdanov tweeted. "Russia's authoritarian government and propaganda will be overjoyed," Zhdanov added.