Social media platforms block Alexei Navalny smart voting chatbot

Occurred: September 2021

Apple, Google and Telegram blocked a smart voting chatbot devised by jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, sparking discussion about freedom of expression in Russia. 

Launched on the day the country started voting in its 2021 parliamentary elections, Navalny's bot was seen as a way for voters opposed to Vladimir Putin to identify candidates able to defeat pro-Kremlin United Russia party candidates.

The bot was removed from the Telegram messenger app, following similar actions by Apple and Google. Telegram founder Pavel Durov said the service would abide by Russia’s 'election silence', a law practiced in other countries that prohibits campaigning during the elections and that Telegram would 'plan' to limit the functioning of bots associated with election campaigns in the future. 

Navalny’s allies accused Apple and Google of “censorship” and claimed that these companies faced public threats from the Russian government and private threats of serious criminal charges and incarceration of local staff.

Operator: Apple, Google, Telegram  
Developer: FBK
Country: Russia
Sector: Politics
Purpose: Facilitate tactical voting
Technology: Chatbot
Issue: Freedom of expression - censorship  
Transparency: Governance

Page info
Type: Issue
Published: September 2021
Last updated: June 2024