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Google and Meta closing ads in Russia helped Putin, argues Navalny

Jailed Kremlin critic, Alexey Navalny, has hit out at adtech giants Meta and Google for shutting off advertising inside Russia following the country’s invasion of Ukraine which he argues has been a huge boon to Putin’s regime by making it harder for the opposition to get out anti-war me…

  • Posted on 09th Jun, 2022 15:03 PM
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Google and Meta closing ads in Russia helped Putin, argues Navalny Image

Jailed Kremlin critic, Alexey Navalny, has hit out at adtech giants Meta and Google for shutting off advertising inside Russia following the country’s invasion of Ukraine which he argues has been a huge boon to Putin’s regime by making it harder for the opposition to get out anti-war messaging.

The remarks came after Navalny was asked to address a conference on democracy. Not in person of course as he remains incarcerated in Russia — rather he posted the comments on his website.

“It would be downright banal to say that the new information world can be both a boon for democracy and a huge bane. Nevertheless, it is so,” he writes. “Our organization has built all its activities on information technology and has achieved serious success with it, even when it was practically outlawed. And information technology is being actively used by the Kremlin to arrest participants in protest rallies. It is proudly claimed that all of them will be recognized even with their faces covered.

“The Internet gives us the ability to circumvent censorship. Yet, at the same time, Google and Meta, by shutting down their advertising in Russia, have deprived the opposition of the opportunity to conduct anti-war campaigns, giving a grandiose gift to Putin.”

Navalny has previously called for Meta and Google to allow their adtech to be weaponized against Putin’s propaganda machine — arguing that highly scalable ad targeting tools could be used to circumvent restrictions on access to free information imposed by the regime as a way to show Russian citizens the bloody reality of the “special military operation” in Ukraine.

Now, in thinly veiled criticism of the tech giants — which would presumably be delivered in a sarcastic tone if his address were being given in person — Navalny writes: “Should the Internet giants continue to pretend that they it’s ‘just business’ for them and act like ‘neutral platforms’? Should they continue to claim that social network users in the United States and Eritrea, in Denmark and Russia, should operate under the same rules? How should the internet treat government directives, given that Norway and Uganda seem to have slightly different ideas about the role of the internet and democracy?

“It’s all very complicated and very controversial, and it all needs to be discussed while keeping in mind that the discussion should also lead to solutions.”

“We love technology. We love social networks. We want to live in a free informational society. So let’s figure out how to keep the bad guys from using the information society to drive their nations and all of us into the dark ages,” he adds.

Meta and Google were contacted for a response to the criticism but at the time of writing neither had sent comment.

The tech industry’s response to the war in Ukraine remains patchy, with Western companies increasingly closing down services inside Russia — but not all their services.

Google and Meta closing ads in Russia helped Putin, argues Navalny View Story