Russia: Navalny blames Google and Meta for helping Putin

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Imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny on Thursday blamed Google and Meta Platforms Inc. for cutting advertising, a move he said undermined the opposition and was therefore a gift to President Vladimir Putin.

Navalny, by far the most important leader of the Russian opposition, portrays Putin’s Russia as a dystopian state ruled by thieves and criminals, where error is right and judges are in fact representatives of a doomed country ruled by lawlessness.

In a written speech at the Democracy Summit in Copenhagen, Navalny, who is currently in a Russian prison, said the technology is being used by the state to arrest dissidents, but also gives the opportunity to get to the truth.

“The Internet enables us to circumvent censorship,” Navalny said in a speech posted on his official blog.

“At the same time, however, Google and Meta, by stopping their advertising in Russia, deprived the opposition of the opportunity to conduct anti-war campaigns, making a grand gift to Putin.”

Neither Google nor Meta responded immediately to a request for comment on Navalny’s reports. Both companies stopped advertising targeting users in Russia in March, just days after Russia invaded Ukraine.

Navalny won the admiration of the motley Russian opposition for his voluntary return to Russia in 2021 from Germany, where he was treated after an attempt to poison him with a neurotoxic agent in Siberia, as shown by laboratory tests conducted in the West.

The Kremlin has repeatedly denied Navalny’s claims about Putin, who he says has won many elections in Russia since 2000 and remains by far the country’s most popular politician. He has denied Navalny’s claim that Russia poisoned him.

Navalny, a former lawyer who became known more than a decade ago for imitating Putin’s elite and claiming that corruption has taken on enormous proportions, said the Silicon Valley Titans have many questions to answer.

They will have to decide, he said, whether they are really “neutral platforms” and whether users in democracies should follow the same rules as users in oppressive societies.

“How should the internet deal with government directives, given that Norway and Uganda seem to have slightly different ideas about the role of the internet and democracy?” Navalny wondered.

“We love technology. We love social media. We want to live in a free information society. So let’s think about how we can prevent the bad guys from using the information society to lead their nations and all of us into the Middle Ages.”

Source: Capital

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