Report: Apple, Spotify, and others cave to new Russian law that could impact censorship demands

Amid the crisis in Eastern Europe, a report by New York Times indicates that Russia is intensifying a censorship campaign by pressing tech giants, such as Apple, Google, Spotify, Twitter, and others into complying with a new law.

NYT says Russian authorities warned Apple and other tech companies to comply with a law that requires them to set up legal entities in the country. Legal experts and civil society groups told the publication that this “so-called landing law makes the companies and their employees more vulnerable to Russia’s legal system and the demands of government censors.”

The moves are part of a Russian pressure campaign against foreign technology companies. Using the prospect of fines, arrests and the blocking or slowing down of internet services, the authorities are pushing the companies to censor unfavorable material online while keeping pro-Kremlin media unfiltered.

As it appears, Apple has already complied with this new law by opening an office in Moscow earlier this month, as reported RepublicWorld:

Apple opened a representative office in Russia, adhering to Kremlin’s communications regulator Roskomnadzor’s rules that required foreign firms to set up operations on Russian soil in order to promote the country’s own domestic tech sector over Silicon Valley. Roskomnadzor had previously warned that the tech firms that violate the legislation risk facing advertising ban, data collection, and money transfer restrictions, or will be completely blacklisted. Russia had asked scores of IT and tech firms to localize their operations citing the new law.

In addition to Apple, TikTok and Spotify have complied with the landing law, while Google has taken steps to do so. Twitter and Meta have complied with some parts of it, while Twitch and Telegram did not.

This NYT report spotlights a very controversial moment for Apple, since the company advocates for privacy. Not only that, but Ukraine’s vice-prime minister called on the company to halt product sales in Russia. In a letter to CEO Tim Cook this Friday, Ukrainian vice prime minister Mykhailo Fedorov wrote that Apple should “stop supplying Apple services and products to the Russian Federation.” The request comes as Russia continues its invasion of Ukraine.

While Apple looks numb at this conflict, surprisingly, Facebook’s parent company Meta just blocked Russian state media from running ads worldwide.

9to5Mac’s Take

For a company like Apple that repeatedly says that “privacy is a fundamental human right,” it doesn’t make any sense to comply with this law. That said, it’s also very weird how long it’s taking for the Cupertino company to take some kind of action.

Of course, it’s not the first time Apple has made a controversial decision. If you recall, the company complied with another law in Russia that obligates the iPhone maker to offer pre-installed apps when a user buys a new phone there.

Last but not least, to maintain a good relationship with China, Apple also offers a more restricted App Store, with the company reportedly removing thousands of apps to comply with the country’s law.

Let’s hope Apple starts taking action soon.

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Naveen Kumar

Friendly communicator. Music maven. Explorer. Pop culture trailblazer. Social media practitioner.

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