Letting your Russian employees be persecuted don't amount to "doing the right thing".
If companies don't want to be complicit in these crimes, they need to extricate themselves from the country and cut all ties.
If they do want to put profit ahead of everything else, then whatever, but you don't get to defend them as doing the right thing for their employees. They're enabling the whole situation.
[Edit to bring in a sister question] "Why don't Apple pull out of China then?" - because they put profit and cheap manufacturing ahead of their morals. And apparently we don't care enough that China effected a genocide while we watched.
IMHO, cooperating with an authoritarian regime in this way should be illegal, sort of like a sanctions violation. Cook and Pachai should go to jail for this. That consequence might clarify their thinking a little.
Withdraw the app and you go to jail. Don’t withdraw the app and your Russian employees go to jail
Hurts but if history should learn us a thing or two one of them should be not to give in to dictators.
The younger ones here are allowed to take a few minutes off to use their favorite search engine to look up the quote "peace in our time" by Chamberlain.
It looks so simple the way I wrote it above. Please note that doing the right thing isn't easy. Telling lots of people their job is gone. Telling investors the money invested in one of the most promising markets is gone etc etc.
But I am afraid that sooner or later the alternative will be worse.
More like move them to a better place if they prefer this to simply terminating the contract. Benefits are numerous - retain already-hired quality personnel, have a good PR campaign about being moral and holy and doing the extra mile with bureaucracy (which would be true), grow some extra hairy balls overnight. Or something similar.
Russia unlike certain others probably won't torture their loved ones because of this.
Don’t forget to write up your list and start lobbying your congressional representative
Granted, the real world is more complicated but this is equivalent of using the strategy of disabling your steering wheel before playing a game of chicken.
Direct action is the primary working approach here.
For those reasons Google and Apple should be considered aiding and abetting Russian government now. Not quite illegal as of now - but how well it looks?
Meh, no quite as bad as the US quietly making Russia its second largest supplier of oil, no?
If you want to starve Crazy Ivan of his forex…
Unfortunately, US companies have lost all trace of ethics. Most product companies now have planned obsolence, and use regulatory capture and abusive patents to grow revenues rather than putting customers first.
We are truly in the twilight of the free market.
I also think that there ought to be a certain level of relativism when it comes to judging political systems.
Is it democratic that an unelected group of 9 people can unilaterally essentially decide the law of the land in the US?
Are republican (little r) systems inherently authoritarian in your view?
Do you actually fear that SCOTUS is going to start imposing some sort of autocratic control over American government? I'm not. You probably aren't either. There are institutional explanations for this.
That said, Machiavelli's Discourses on Livy (a seminal republican text) was quite clear that republican mixed government does involve mixing a bit of democracy with a bit of authoritarianism/autocracy. I do think it is "authoritarian", but I don't think it is necessarily bad.
My question is merely: why can we extend this sort of support to mixed government in our country, but seemingly consider many of the other forms of mixed government in action as pure authoritarian tyranny?
For instance, we often criticize Iran as being authoritarian, but compared to many of our allies elsewhere, Iran is actually relatively democratic, even if they have authoritarian "checks" just like we do with the Supreme Court.
Seems like a dictatorship to me.
There's black and white with grey in between. Whether you report the shades of grey as black or white depends on who you ask and what is offered for comparison.
Is india an authoritarian regime? You'll find plenty of evidence going both ways. What about Belarus? Hungary? Venezuela?
The grey is precisely why having yes/no binaries like this leads to more confusion.
A simple rule of thumb definition (that could probably use some refinement) is regimes that are either explicitly anti-democratic or a sham democracy. Russia certainly falls into the latter category, as this very story demonstrates.
In most cases, it's not that hard.
It's just another example among many. Russia is a sham democracy because the government takes action to prevent opposition politicians from gaining power.
> Does the fact that Twitter/Facebook/et al banned the NYPost in the run-up to the 2020 election as well as preventing people from sending links to NYPost articles in their DMs "demonstrate" anything about the US?
I sense you think it shows some kind of equivalency, which is not true. Actually, if those organizations had to run the NY Post story, the US would be closer to a sham than it is.
Hm, guess I'd like to live in a sham democracy then, as blocking me from sending certain political thoughts in my chat messages is unacceptable to me.
I'd rather have this power in the hands of publicly-sanctioned, rules-based agents than arbitrary private actors who can interfere with me at any time for whatever reason they want. Philip Pettit has written quite well on this issue.
No one's blocking you. Go put a sign up in your front yard, just don't complain your rights are being trampled when I don't let you put up a sign in my yard.
Other people have rights too, and that includes the right not to cooperate with you.
The image of society given by your picture does not resemble real life. Facebook and I are not equal actors akin to neighbors disputing over what gets put in their front yard.
It is this recognition that we are not equal neighbors that is the reason we have labor protections, minimum wage laws, campaign finance laws, etc.
You're never going to have a society that equal. Do you all the sudden have the right to put signs up at my house because it's bigger or on a busier street than yours? Should you be able to put chapters in the books I write because no one wants to read yours?
I think there are good arguments that Facebook is too big and should be broken up, but the NY Post Hunter Biden "story" isn't one of them. It was garbage, and filtering out garbage is an important function. I'm familiar enough with garbage to realize that.
No, I have the right to put signs up at your house because you put up a bulletin board and actively invited anyone in the neighborhood to put signs on it.
It's either open to the general public or it's not, and if you pick "not", the onus is on you to at least refrain from actively and ubiquitously contradicting that.
If every major cell phone provider chose to stop delivering any text with that article attached to it, would that be acceptable? What if they decided to unilaterally stop delivering any texts from the Trump campaign?
Clearly there is a line to be drawn, and falling back on "it's their private property and thus their right to filter it however they want" is not sufficient in the 21st century, in the age of platform companies and extreme corporate consolidation.
> It was garbage, and filtering out garbage is an important function
Garbage? It was new, previously unreported information. I voted for Joe Biden, and I still found it of interest - and it did appear to contradict some things Biden had said publicly.
So? They only have that kind of power over you because you chose to give it to them.
If I have cool friends, and you decided to organize your social life around visiting my house to see them, it's not my problem if you don't have a place to socialize if I sour on you and exclude you.
> Clearly there is a line to be drawn, and falling back on "it's their private property and thus their right to filter it however they want" is not sufficient in the 21st century, in the age of platform companies and extreme corporate consolidation.
My perspective is compelled speech or compelled cooperation with political speech is just as bad as censorship, so if that's your solution, you have to find a different one.
> Garbage? It was new, previously unreported information.
If the NY Post has a picture of Biden shitting on the toilet, that would also be "new, previously unreported information." It would also be garbage. Those categories aren't mutually exclusive.
> The Post, According to a survey conducted by Pace University in 2004, was rated the least credible major news outlet in New York.
In no way does that justify preventing me from sending true information relevant to a public figure in a chat.
If there is true, factual information they posted about, the same information can almost surely be sourced from another, more reputable news outlet that is known to fact-check and provide accurate information.
FWIW, I blocked/muted NYPost twitter account years ago because of their vitriolic, sensationalized and misleading click-bait articles. If you can't convey important news without manipulating me, you have no credibility and are no better than a grocery-store-checkout tabloid.
Should the standard be to only allow articles written by reputable outlets, which have been known to bury stories (such as those demonstrating war crimes by the US military)?
I just completely disagree with you I guess. I should be free to send whatever I want in private chat messages with my friends, even if it is politically unsavory.
And yeah, I believe text messages (SMS) are indeed filtered, sadly. I just saw an article about exactly this subject where a company with a .xyz domain was finding that SMS containing their domain were not being delivered! Pretty disappointing.
This whole thread could be a good indicator of the future of online communication, and my personal advice is to start looking at "end-to-end encrypted (with no back doors)" as a requirement for any communication platform you use with friends & family. Too bad such a feature is extremely rare :(
 https://www.spotvirtual.com/blog/the-perils-of-an-xyz-domain... (and HN discussion at https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=28554400 )
Take campaign finance, for instance. I'm of the opinion that we need much stronger campaign finance laws.
Your response, to me, reads similar to "well, I don't watch ads on TV and I certainly wouldn't vote for someone based on a 10 second ad, so I don't think campaign finance needs reform." The issue is that millions of people do watch those ads, just like millions of people do rely on tech platforms to contact their friends, socialize, engage in political discourse, etc.
IMO I feel that NY Post should basically be shut down and banned from publication due to their harmful, divisive rhetoric and blatant lies, but conversely I don't agree with filtering private communication. My personal opinion is that once a given platform allows freeform communication between two people, that communication should be completely private and unable to be filtered or censored. tbh I suppose our exchange has helped me clarify those views a bit ;)
Not about its government, given that they did not demand (or even informally pressure) that the tech companies involved make this move.
Mind you, every other station covered it heavily too. The sitting president was impeached over the hunter Biden story
I'm not a huge fan of Joe Biden (as you can probably infer from my comments here https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=28550896), but the Hunter Biden stuff was a shameless distraction with no real substance.
So to answer your question: if the US MSM and social media was required to run smears of a sitting president against his opponent, the US would be far closer to being a sham democracy.
Uh, that's really not a strong affirmative justification for taking active measures to stop people from using your platform to share a story. And of course the real problem is not simply that the story was suppressed, but that we all know that media platforms do not in fact have a blanket policy against reporting on "shameless distractions with no real substance", and that this sort of post-hoc rationalizing of obvious partisan bias is intellectually insulting.
Cognitive dissonance is a hell of a drug.
Give your customers the ability to install their own software or app stores on the hardware that they own and paid for, without requiring a monopolistic walled garden. Of course, companies like Apple would never do this because they are far too greedy.
They also could have just uploaded their database of candidates to Github.
Because elected representatives are not moral authorities
All that is hard, and that's why evil like Putin prevails...
If by "available", you mean political candidates, then yes. If you mean of the society in general, then no, quite the opposite, actually.
> So if they don't have good morals that means the whole society does not have good morals.
No, it means two of the worst people in the society (namely, the 'republican' candidate and the 'democratic' candidate) do not have good morals. This a slightly stronger measure than the society's minimum level of morals, but not by very much, and says nothing about average or about particular non-politician cases.
I'd say "demonstrates the", but... yes? Obviously?
Democracy worked well early on because institutions hadn't yet figured out how to exploit it, not because it had any inherent resistance to exploitation; now it's like Merkel-Damgaard hash functions: it was always broken, but now we (and the attackers) know it's broken and are seeing the consequences.
0: eg, MD5, SHA-1
Or put from a flip side… Building apps in highly democratic Norway just for Norwegians to use because they’re the best democracy (for example) doesn’t make enough money to feed my family. So why do anything at all?
My point that the observe-eval-withdraw loop is difficult to terminate is not meant to argue we shouldn’t run the loop, but rather how difficult it is to code the withdraw conditions. As I tried to allude to in the second paragraph, you have to balance out the withdraw conditions with the pragmatic need to let the loop get some worthwhile work done.
I agree, there's some arbitrary hand-wringing to be done to work out where to draw the line, but doing nothing while you're paralysed trying to decide what pencil to use, seems just as bad as going along with the acts in the first place.
Arguably having access to technology is important for the regular citizen, even under less democratic countries. There is the privacy angle, and also if you have an Android monopoly it becomes easier for the government to exploit/enforce what they want. You don't help people to understands the benefits of participating on a democracy, or even fighting to have a democracy by withdrawing and hiding what democracies around the world are able to produce and manufacture. Withdrawing the apps as required by government censorship is just one of the battles lost, but not the entire benefit Apple presence has.
In this case we're talking about propping up the existing Russian government who actively interfere in democracy around the world, assassinate political enemies and draw immense influence from the fear it spreads around it. Yeah, sure, why wouldn't we want to keep that going as long as we can?
Because it will end one day. Putin isn't Russia's greatest love machine. When that day comes, all the instability you'd blame on me and my ideals will rain down on us all anyway.
If you want to reduce my reasoned moral objections to "cancel culture", I'm sure you're somebody's hero, but yes, I think we should demand better from the companies we fund. Russia's instability is inevitable, either way.
Cancel culture means a lot of different things to different people. You might want to clarify your interpretation here.
> Russia will decrease many Russian's standard of living, but will have zero impact in stopping them from rigging elections.
Wow, this was a mental leap. So by giving into already established corruption of government officials in Russia, you're making it better for Russians standard of living by further having a corrupt government? I don't know how you reached this conclusion. There are thousands of businesses in Russia (and probably hundreds that are large and US centric), but only one government. One company pulling out is hardly going to make a dent in providing jobs in a country as large as Russia.
> If everyone cuts trade for moral reasons, then there's no incentive for us not to point nukes at each other again.
So, you're implying that if we didn't have global trade then nations would fight more? I don't think I've ever heard this interpretation before - care to elaborate?
I don't agree with OP but this is actually a pretty common talking point around the benefits of globalization. If you depend on some other country for some essential resource (e.g. natural gas) you're less likely to want to go to war with them because it would be quite inconvenient to suddenly have half your population freezing in the winter.
Here's some research from Cato that shows that trade interdependence generally promotes peace https://www.cato.org/research-briefs-economic-policy/does-tr...
Russia has a lot of power to flex against its own citizens.
The part you're reading around is the people here defending Apple and Google's behaviour, because they're just doing what's right for their employees.
Doing what's right for Apple and Google's employees is not setting up offices in front of Russia's loaded gun, which we've only known about for… hundreds of years. Apple and Google put their employees at risk. They don't get points for doing more bad things to further delay that risk (and feed the machine that made that enables the risk).
My naïveté is certainly worth considering, but we're all so wilfully blind to atrocities. It was one thing to let another country beat up its citizens and attempt to sanction them, but now we're each personally entangling our lives with companies that aid and abet. We have to demand better.
That much is simple.
Actually putting things right is more complex, but almost complete inaction isn't good enough.
It's all about Navalny's tactic of 'smart voting', where they are picking candidates from parties other than the 'United Russia' party of Putin, in an attempt to bring in members of parliament who would not be in exact alignment with the politics of Putin. These candidates are often not even in open opposition to Putin, and that is currently the worst opposition and nightmare of the Russian government...
Participating in dictatorship is barely better than refusing to do so if that dictatorship will falsely imprison your employees.
Then why Apple hasn't pulled out of China? Like 2 decades ago? China was always a brutal dictatorship. Why would they pull out of anything? These company profit from bloody dictatorships, like the rest of the western economy. But somehow when it's about Russia it's a problem? The hypocrisy in the west must stop. The west and it's industry never stood for freedom abroad since it decided that business is more important than democracy in the rest of the world, basically when the west accepted China in the WTO.
> Participating in dictatorship is barely better than refusing to do so if that dictatorship will falsely imprison your employees.
Tell that to Apple in China, a country that is literally using slave workforce from concentration camps. But Russia is where people here start being outraged?
It's entirely possible that the same people are _also_ outraged by Apple's business in China.
The danger is the mentality that we should not solve any single problem unless we can solve all of the problems. Pointing out the hypocrisy to invalidate the argument can lead to inaction.
I'd say it was long long before that. The US replaced a democratically elected leader with a dictatorship at the behest of a fruit company to give one example and it has had plenty such business influenced examples preceding and following it.
>Tell that to Apple in China
It ain't quite done to separatists but is it surprising? It's ok even when a lot less money is involved and it happens locally.: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=28286853
I suppose whoever cares enough for Western morals to improve needs to try to sell out a little less themselves.
Apple scan your photos. Tells you what apps you are allowed to install and charges you extra for all of that. Whatever type of person is left on the platform is more likely to be going through stockholm syndrome and wouldn't be in a situation to make a political statement.
None of them do that on my device, that I paid with my money. No cloud service wastes my CPU cycles and batteries to report me to authorities.
It's apples to oranges, sorry for the pun. Please stop comparing what Google, MS and Dropbox do to what Apple planned to do.
However, that was not what the parent stated. They said "Apple scan your photos.", to which I replied everyone else does as well. Because they do.
Did it? In what way? Does Google not censor results in the United States at the behest of the US government? Does it not spy on users at the best of the US govt?
Google censor based on court rulings, user requests from Europe, national security certicates. Google follows the law where it operates which is why they stopped in China.
Google doesn't spy on behalf the government. The government monitors all traffic via under the sea cables and at all major backbone datacenters. The cellphone location beacon you carry around does.
Page and Brinn started Google with the intention to improve the world. They weren't short of money, so not being part of what China was doing was productive, even if it did not make cash.
I know plenty of people that are driven by things other than money, and its not a raw deal at all.
Of course, after that, Google went Evil Incarnate so now there is no logic for them to be out of China.
I was also just posting a fact that people have made the same calls for China, not my personal opinion about whether we "should" discontinue services with China. On that last point, I'm honestly undecided.
Google Search was never really what one would normally describe as a "successful product" in China even when it was at it's hight in terms of market share. It sucked and given Google still operate in China, have development offices there and actively promote Android (amongst other services), it's a real stretch to say that Google discontinued Search in China over ethical reasons. Search was just, like many of their services in the west that get canned, just not proving successful enough to be worth the hassle supporting. Which was my original point.
edit: Christ on a bike. I'm getting downvoted when even the citations backs up my statement. Googlers must have logged on for their morning dose of internet outrage.
Please assume good faith here.
My wife's father's family were brutally oppressed by the Communists. To this day he gets upset, and I've seen him burst into tears when talking about what they did to some of his relatives in the 50s and 60s. This is the toughest guy I've ever known.
None of my Chinese relatives, no matter how deeply they oppose the government, thinks Apple should not sell them iPhones because of anything the CCP does. When Apple pulled VPN apps in China they blamed the CCP, not Apple. None of them think refusing to trade with china is in Chinese citizens best interests. This is why I think I can gauge how Russians probably think about this though I have no experience of Russia.
I'd rather Apple and Google pulled from Russia precisely because people there do not feel responsible for the acts of their government, which makes them (and now also Google and Apple) complicit.
In my opinion the people in question are simply choosing the bad strategy in prisoner's dilemma.
Well, then is it a matter of principle for western democracies or not? Meanwhile, the west is financing the CCP.
I'm confused how this is distinguished from the conditions of domestic textile workers in the US?
> China uses Uyghur forced labour to make solar panels, says report
> There’s a good chance your cotton T-shirt was made with Uyghur slave labor... Much of the world’s cotton comes from the Uyghur region, where the Chinese government is ethnically cleansing its Muslim minority. Fashion conglomerates know this
> Despite having initially denied the existence of camps, authorities later described them as “vocational training” centres. Nevertheless, satellite imagery indicated that an increasing number of camps continued to be built throughout the year.
EDIT: I was confused by the downvotes given that the above aren't exactly fringe outlets. I imagine people may be conflating the mention of "Apple" and "slave labour" in the parent comment. I'm not supporting the idea that Apple are using slave labour in China - I have no idea on that front. (And if you reread the parent it's not necessarily what they were suggesting either.) The sources above merely seem to show that there are reports in general of forced labour and forced detention in China. That said... this was the result of quick first-page Googling and I'm admittedly pretty ignorant on this topic.
How many of Russia's Apple employees think Apple is "participating in dictatorship" by employing them? How many Russian citizens, including the political opposition, do you think blame Apple or Google for participating in dictatorship by selling them phones and providing them with services? Maybe a few take such an extreme view, but it certainly doesn't seem to be a common attitude for Russian opponents of Putin.
The ability to side load apps is a smokescreen because only 1% of people would use any alternate means.
So even if they had alternate app stores, Apple removing it from the main App Store is egregious.
Similar to how it’s terrible that Google removed it even though it’s available in alternate stores.
(Of course Apple should allow sideloading and other app stores)
Is he still a dictator if he would win contested elections?
The polling on Putin in Russia is pretty darn clearcut, don't see how you can look at the numbers I do and conclude anything other than that Putin has the tacit support of most of the population.
Castro was elected for what, 50 years. He was definitely a dictator.
There was (is) voter suppression in the US and the civil rights movement directly worked to overturn polls that showed that only white governors and mayors in the south will win.
I don’t think Russian polls can be interpreted fairly to mean Putin has the tacit support of most of the population. Putin’s opponents are jailed and they are billionaires. If I get a poll, I’m not going to answer honestly due to fear.
I guess you can say they wind up playing whack-a-mole with new App Store and websites but that doesn’t seem ideal either. Russians can plant something too.
And Google removed it too. So are users downloading it now from 3rd-party app stores?
What makes you think they know better, than him?
I don't think there is any: Apple has never operated in Russia directly and I doubt there are employees working remotely from Russia.
Because if regime's economy collapses, the regime will collapse sooner.
Dictatorships are the enemies of the Free World. Or, do you think they are friends, perhaps?
They are your enemies, and you keep their economies ruined.
-1 point for dillusional idea that cuba is an enemy or a threat to the us or anyone fir that matter
-1 point fir lack of self-reflection on how free we are becoming
-1 point for cruelty
I am very reflective. I see the West turning into a serial facilitator of rogue, and fascist regimes for some "special relationships." If they deserve fire for that, I think they really should. It's been 20 years since 9/11, and USA is still sucking up to the Saudi Regime for really nothing of benefit — this is what I will call a real lack of self-reflection.
Cuba is not a threat, but it very much will be if you leave its neck out of your hands for a second. The Cuban state is the biggest threat to Cuban people. Thank them for good healthcare, but then smack them good for near starving their people despite Cuba being chock full of agricultural land for a country of 10M, inventing silly excuses for it, and jailing anybody pointing a finger on that.
I see the mob in charge, very much see. I personally knew people who lost all their livelihood to having their business robbed, and seized. The general population don't want you, the West to keep feeding Putin's bottomless mouth. They are not idiots. They see every gram of food the West gives the regime, the regime uses to grow bigger, and stronger, and then bite, and rob them even more.
China and Russia are not like North Korea though. Citizens generally enjoy a considerable degree of freedom of movement, economic freedoms and even rights to travel abroad. To the extent that these rights are curtailed or refused we should apply increasing degrees of pressure. In fact I think we don't apply enough pressure, particularly to China. There's a lot more we could do. What we should do is emphasise that crimes such as the oppression of the Uighurs should have consequences, and we're not doing that enough right now.
I'm particularly concerned about China's application to join the Asia-Pacific trade pact, the CPTPP. The association was founded by the US in order to form a united front against China, but the US pulled out in 2017. So we now face a real possibility a trade pact intended to contain China will end up helping China contain US economic influence in the region. Nice one.
Absolute bans and boycotts are simply not appropriate though, they would disproportionately hurt ordinary Chinese, including those under the worst oppression and would help China promote a nationalistic us versus them attitude. It would also remove any ability to apply increasing pressure to any further oppressive moves because we'd have no pressure left to apply. So I fully agree with the principle, you're quit right these regimes are our enemy, but not the all-or-nothing implementation.
The fall of the USSR may have been overall a good thing and even inevitable, as with any huge disruption it was not an unequivocal good thing for every single person.
The parent did not cherry pick, they didn't go far enough. It was overwhelmingly positive regardless of Kazakhstan or Serbia.
East Germany, Poland, Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, Czechia, Slovakia, Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria.
Your comment is also beside the point. Russia is likely no better than Estonia. It does not mean Estonia is not worse than other EU countries, including former members of USSR.
I think even in the Central Asian North Korea — Uzbekistan, a person now lives more freely, and richer than the wealthiest USSR citizens did.
>> After the collapse of the USSR, economic reforms were not fully implemented in Uzbekistan, conditions for the development of medium and small businesses were not created, corruption took root, and unemployment increased. Many wonder: if it is better now than in the past, why have about two to five million Uzbek citizens left their country in search of work?
via bbs.com (!!!) https://www.bbc.com/russian/international/2014/10/141015_uzb...
.. and where do you think they migrated to, from their country that is on its way to Middle Ages? To Putin's dark regime's Russia, nowhere else, working there as construction and road workers etc.
You've got a good chance to compare your reality with real reality, my friend.
I didn't, but I know this better than you.
Uzbekistan, a North Korea redux it be, but you can
1. now get a coca cola there.
2. food is on the shelves, including meat
3. buy property, instead of being shot for doing so
4. leave the country, back in USSR there were no option to go work anywhere as a construction worker to earn real cash.
If you really like your USSR wonderland communist paradise, please go. The immigration route to North Korea, or Cuba is open for you.
It was critical.
And after he had his second stroke, he was a walking vegetable basically, and the opportunity was lost.
You are very demoralised.
I don't really think that'd help. It'd further isolate those countries, making them more and more authoritarian and less and less educated.
Google pulling out of any country for help democracy either.
I think all authoritarian governments rely on a chunk of their population to stay in power. This population can be very small, but sufficient.
In order to maintain their popularity they rely on:
1. Lack of education
2. Strong propaganda
4. Social welfare
5. Religion & ideology
6. Fear of enemy
Within their target demographics.
So, they will end up with chunks of population who are uneducated, poor, strongly reliant on government welfare that are actually thankful for the government for their social welfare and cultural/religious alignment.
The pro-democracy people are usually middle class citizens. How do you fight uneducated, religiously/culturally motivated people with tame middle class citizens? It's not doable. That's why Taliban takes control of Afghanistan.
The only thing that I've seen work is this:
1. You try to keep communications alive with population. Google leaving a country? There couldn't be anything worse.
2. You incentivize government/regimes to stay as open as possible.
3. You wait decades for paradigm shifts within populations.
As for #1, let me give you an example. ~25 years ago I was 7. I lived in Iran. There was no internet. TV & Radio are government controlled and the country was too poor for people to travel abroad.
The _only_ thing that kept us connected to the outside world was... soccer.
Iranian state TV would broadcast a few soccer games a week (not live). For a massive chunk of the population, the only way to see there are _other_ type of people, not name Ali, Hussain, Muhammed, etc, and instead named Alessandro, Paolo, David, whatever, was soccer. Something simple like this can really keep the mind open. Allows you to realize there are other ways.
Fast forward a few years, a "reform" government was in place. The regime was relatively incentivized to talk to the US. Thus, they allowed Internet. The reform government allowed music and film to flourish again. As a result of economic growth a lot of Iranians were traveling abroad (from Turkey and Dubai to all over Europe) and as a result the middle class got more and more "western".
Fast forward to Donald Trump leaving the JCPOA, putting a "maximum pressure" campaign against Iran.
The economy went to shit (it's really a humanitarian crisis now). The government, scared of riots, locked everything down. All European brands/companies have left the country and the government is pushing to close down internet altogether.
A decade ago Iranians were pushing for democracy (Green Movement). Now, their only concern is survival. There is no hope anymore. The population is getting poorer and poorer, less and less educated.
So my question after this story is, do you think Google leaving Russia will end up helping Russians get more educated, more wealthy, more connected to the free world?
Or would it push them to the direction of poverty, isolation and disconnect?
Iran 10 years ago (before maximum pressure campaign by the republicans) was on the path to be something like Turkey. Not totally free, but somewhat OK ish country. Now it's on the path to be another North Korea (if this direction continues for another 15-20 years)
Sorry this wasn't a well written, well thought piece. It was an anecdotal dump of thoughts, but hopefully I managed to make a point.
Now I'm left wondering, what do we imagine google to be in russia when we say google should pull out?
Do we imagine that all of google will be blocked because they would no longer respond to russia's requests? Or maybe because act of pulling out is a political statement in on itself?
If google was the only connection to the western world, surely that would be different than if google was just one of many connections to the western world?
Maybe it's a slippery slope.
A bit unrelated, it seems like free satellite internet independent from state using smuggled phones could help. Maybe it's optimistic and naive, but I imagine it would be similar to getting illegal music and sharing that with your friends.
1. Russia has very high education -- it's ranked 3rd in the world in terms of people who attend college/university.
2. Russia is a 2nd-world country, so they don't suffer from extreme poverty.
3. Russians aren't very religious.
If Google leaves there wouldn't be much difference in terms of people accessing information on the web because most Russians already use Yandex for web search anyway.
But more importantly, the Russian government is already pushing to replaced foreign tech with Russian alternatives. They're pressuring Russian companies to switch to using local internet services, software, and they've supposedly developed the ability to "disconnect" Russian internet from the rest of open internet. So, if/when they're ready, they will do so. So, I think the point I'm trying to make is that the internet as a platform for information isn't some sort of catalyst for democracy. Russian people are smart and educated, but the authoritarian regime is as strong as it has ever been.
Maybe, if the alternative is them cooperating with the dictator government for more effective surveillance and enforcement? Google from 2021 isn't Google from 2006.
I mean, 20 years ago I'd 100% agree with you, but modern-day big tech is... yikes! The only thing it'll do is prevent the emergence and spread of more open (and certainly harder to track) tech.
1. A western company that has to abide to Russian's unlawful and immoral requests time to time
2. A Russian company, which either belongs to the state, or is fully controlled by the state, or has absolutely 0 power against the state.
You choose 2?
Another way of looking at it for me is this:
If, one day, Iran and US governments allow Google to operate in Iran, that'd be a step forward. It's true that Google _may_ have to bow to Iran's regime from time to time. It's also true that Google may _want_ to help Iran's regime from time to time (due to whatever interest) but their interest is not 100% aligned. It's only sometimes aligned.
That, next to all the benefits of Google operating in Iran, would definitely make me choose 1.
To be honest, I think that tech has no solution for you, and that you're only looking there because tech's what you're good at.
Your argument is definitely compelling - I share the distrust in the way things are going with “surveillance capitalism” as you call it, but, is there a risk of being too binary here?
For example, could it be possible that options 1 and 2 do not necessarily have the same negative outcome. Could an outside tech company (not state controlled) even if it’s under control of a western government that’s continually pushing for more control (and I speak as a Brit where we’re fighting our own battles on this front) still be better at helping to spread freedom of communication and ideas even marginally than the fully state controlled alternative?
It’s all relative I think. No country is perfect, no government is perfect. As a Brit my government fucks up continuously. The American government fucks up continuously. The Australian government fucks up continuously (looking at the recent legislation that we’ve talked about on HN). We’re all basket cases. But, the world is imperfect. Is it possible that even with our flaws, a more open and democratic (relatively) country’s private sector companies can still have a positive impact by having a presence in less open/democratic countries? Even if that means having to acquiesce occasionally?
I’m not sure. But I’m open to the possibility and I think the parent makes a strong case from their description of their own experience with Iran.
Of course! I'm just observing how tech is being applied in my part of the world and assuming the same thing will happen in theirs. There's a good possibility that my hypothesis is incomplete or just plain wrong. I thought it's worth sharing nevertheless.
But a state-owned company would only and only have 1 master, which would be the state. And it wouldn't bring any of the benefits of Google with it. It would surveil you more aggressively and it would be more devoted to the state.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s a good chance my hypothesis is incomplete too! :)
I'm not so sure they would be equal. Example:
Iranians have been using Telegram/Whatsapp/Viber for many years. And every few years the government tries to block them and push their own "national" app. Every time they try to push this agenda, there is a massive massive backlash, because noone trusts the government.
Maybe Iranian government would have enough leverage against Facebook/Google to ask them to do something (like removing Navalny app) at key moments (or push to surveil some key people at certain moments) but they definitely wont have access to every single person's database like a "national" app would. That's a very big difference.
Are you kidding? This is one of most eloquent and thoughtful responses I’ve ever had to a question on HN.
Thanks for taking the time to put your thoughts down. Everything you’ve said makes total sense, and it totally balances out my original gut reaction which was “fuck Apple and Google, just pull out of the country rather than giving in to these sorts of demands”.
Having followed Navalny’s story, I felt outraged that these two massive tech companies can’t even keep his political support app online to just give a modicum of support to the guy single-handedly (almost) taking on Putin.
What I didn’t consider, and what’s made much more clear to me by your brilliant response, is that it may only be due to the proliferation of “generally open” (relatively) tech companies like Apple and Google in Russia that has allowed Navalny to build momentum and support there in the first place.
The benefits of better communication and easier proliferation of ideas that are brought by the internet and the tech companies that enable this “communication and idea sharing infrastructure” can be easily overlooked.
If you have a blog or somewhere to publish your ideas, you should totally publish this comment as an article as it’s insightful and brilliant.
> Fast forward to Donald Trump leaving the JCPOA, putting a "maximum pressure" campaign against Iran.
> The economy went to shit (it's really a humanitarian crisis now). The government, scared of riots, locked everything down…
At the risk of digging in a bit politically here… I’m curious if Donald Trump’s actions here were a crucial tipping point in your view or if there were other factors too that were obviously at play? As much as I’d love to blame it all on Trump I’m curious if he exacerbated things that were already slipping, or if he (and the Republicans) precipitated it…
There were obviously a lot of factors in play here. However, pulling out of JCPOA, against the will of all European partners and many US companies with no alternative reason was a crime. It was only to deny Obama/Democrats a win (over a good deal with Iran) which has brought a decade of misery upon Iranian people and risk of more wars among people in the region.
But the JCPOA was a massive, massive step forward and had no downsides for any of the countries involved. But leaving JCPOA was a step even more backwards and it may have pushed Iran over the edge. It may have been a point of no return for Iranian regime.
P.S: Thank you for the kind words.
It does seem like you’re right to be emphasising the significance of the US pulling out of this. (And that’s probably an understatement).
Thanks for your level headed elaboration of your thinking on this - I’ve learnt a great deal from this thread and shifted a few perspectives!
This is why I come to HN.
Of course, working in the country means paying tax dollars and "participating in the dictatorship" in that way, but that's not linked to app store restrictions. It's not as if they needed to get ordered to remove that app to realize they were working in a dictatorship, they knew it beforehand.
Edit: Google has a slight advantage here because people can still sideload apps on Android, but that's not possible on iOS.
Even the web with single points of failure is prone to this.
One of the first things I was told when I joined FB was that they were almost going to be decentralized and a non-profit. Who knows how much of that history is rewritten.
I mention it because there are echoes that these big tech companies could have been non-profits. Google making information accessible. Apple making computers that enable people to learn and create. Facebook connecting people and creating community. Amazon to empower small businesses.
They probably wouldn’t have succeeded as much as they did now. But they certainly deviated away from their original mission, or rather they have a history of compromising them for profit. We should be trying to create a world where they would have succeeded as a non-profit.
Our incentive structures for corporations are so screwed up. But this is so complex. Probably the first step is improving the bottom line for everyone in the country, and then we can start tearing apart the incentive structures for businesses.
They made choices that put them in this situation, sure. But how does the fact that it's their fault change their situation now? Leaving still achieves nothing, and they certainly won't change their business model for that reason alone, so the logical choice is to stay and obey.
If they left, I doubt they would be replaced by a Microsoft-like that has less control over their devices. More likely, the void would be filled by government-compliant companies.
Moving out of their country is just what dictatorships want. To do their thing undisturbed.
Which is not to say Google and Apple don't care about their employees, clearly this article suggests otherwise.
It's just not true that pulling out is a viable or even straight forward option.
You could also make an argument for US government placing pressure on these companies to keep a presence in Russia so they (the US government) can have some kind of foothold to push soft pressure
You can post whataboutism under this comment (e.g. "what about China?", "US is bloody too", "US always supports dictators" and other useful idiot stuff).
Every country does exactly the same thing. Just look at how much suppression of "alternative voices" happens in real time all over the world and what apps were banned, accounts closed etc. Jan 6 was painted as bad as 9/11, ffs. It may be staged differently so it's not the "government" directly steps onto your 1st amendment, but "private biz", but who are we kidding. When there are forbidden topics and forbidden people, it's the outcomes that matter, not specific mechanisms.
Google and Apple are collaborating with all governments, and all governments are abusing their powers in someone's own interests, so calling for "pulling out" of a "misbehaving country" makes as much sense as asking for rain to drop upwards.
I'd better explore how people could reduce their dependence on any giant corporation, regardless of it being a business or a government, from West or East.
They don't though. Sure, there is some level of corruption and media bias in every country but few countries have dictatorships which will threaten imprisonment (or worse) of anyone who speaks out against the current government.
However I do agree with your secondary point that the solution isn't to create a tech vacuum, it's to create technology that can't be controlled by a single authority.
Here you have an app that literally tells people how to vote. This is pro-US, so again, Russia bad.
Sorry, wrong person, 1 sec...
1) Studied in Yale
2) Supported by all western media as a hero at any time
3) Received large amounts in Bitcoin
4) Maria Pevchikh (MI6)
Looks like very Rissian polititian, and very pro-russian activity.
Just because someone uses a front to hide behind does not mean they are not behind the activity.
I'm not moving the topic, that is an integral part of the existing discussion: Apple and Google employees were threatened with imprisonment if they didn't remove the app.
> but are they really that much better off?
Now who's moving the discussion away from topic? It certainly isn't me lol
I'll entertain your question though: some will be better off, some will be worse off, and some will not be affected at all. When you deal with any large dataset, such as the entire population of a country, there will always be individual samples which demonstrate the benefits of most outcomes.
HOWEVER I do not believe the instances of those who are better off under a dictatorship equal out the atrocities that dictators use to retain their control. And that is the real crux of the problem.
> That people chant USA! USA! USA! while doing something doesn't mean they are free.
I'm not American and don't have a particularly high opinion of American politics either but it's still better than a dictatorship.
I also suspect you're now drifting into a philosophical argument about what it means to be "free".
> It does feel better, sure, but it doesn't give any less media bias at all.
Finally you're back on topic! As I stated in my previous post, every country will have bias in the media. That's unavoidable. However what is important is that the media have freedom to choose their political biases. In "free" countries you'd typically get new outlets which will favour the current government but also outlets that will be highly critical of the government. And that is the difference between Russia and most of the rest of the world. It might seem like a really small point if you're used to Russian (or any other state-controlled) media but I promise you that it really is a significant difference!
> If anything US media is more biased than Russian or at least as bad
No, it really is not. You have platforms that can offer opposing arguments and full press freedom to use them. America even has rules stating that one should have the freedom to speak out against the government (and this was upheld in court when Trump tried to block people he didn't like on Twitter). Compare that with most dictatorships where vocal opponents often end up exiled (or worse!) and you'll see my point that you cannot argue the two to be equivalent.
So it sounds familiar if you squint and stand a hundred yards back.
As far as I am concerned, you absolutely cannot have centralized control over something like "all software distribution" without being actively complicit with such regimes, and that people working for Apple have chosen to normalize this is unconscionably immoral :(.
Yeah that seems to distil the problem down to the fundamentals. Will watch your talk, thanks!
I personally have apps from 2-3 different countries' store accounts on my Apple devices.
> likely result in many other western IT firms closing their offices and leaving
That's just naive. Russia and China are huge markets. Apple and Google are not going anywhere unless their hands are forced.
Just look at what’s happening in Belarus in the last year (IT companies started fleeing to neighboring countries)
That might be the right thing to do but it’s a tough sell to shareholders.
Obviously they won't if they fold this easy.
Why haven't you provided a link then?
I suspect they're just hired from some agency or consultancy as FAANG have very limited corporate presence in Russia.
So they just keep being sheepish and stumbling because they have no incentive to stand their ground. Just hired guns.
The inquirer asked basic questions like "who controls App Store" or "what is the relationship between local subsidiary and Apple Inc."
They stumbled and mumbled looking lost. They looked like they didn't have clear defense line or strategy although the attack on Apple was absolutely on cards for years.
I hope I'm wrong judging by a short video but it's a bad look for Apple.
It's possible Apple is just giving in to Kremlin (or have an agreement already even) so they don't even bother or care to defend themselves.
Is it implausible that the lawyers were coerced into looking weak to provide a propaganda victory for the regime?
>Google removed the app Friday morning after the Russian authorities issued a direct threat of criminal prosecution against the company’s staff in the country, naming specific individuals, according to a person familiar with the company’s decision.
Any government can easily classify any opposition as "extremists" now and Apple and Google will ban them.
I disagree. Western companies have no moral obligation to bend their own ethics, help a tyrant, and harm a nation, in order to "save" one, or a handful, of employees from said tyrant.
Quite the opposite, the right thing to do is to take a stand and force the tyrant out in broad daylight.
IT IS very much a right thing. Don't want to work for such company? Leave! It's not an indentured slavery!
Fuck, You Sergei Brin! You just screwed the most monumental display of courage, and determination by employees of Google Russia with a single pen stroke.
Nobody had Sergei Brin call them, and tell to do that.
It was an act 100% of their own volition.
The threat to employees on the other hand was not real one, there is no one to legally procecute in the Russian subsidiaries of the companies.
I'm an immigrant who moved from Hungary to Germany, lived in Spain and Mexico, and I know many examples from all countries where people in power got their way through various ways, even if they had no legal way to enforce their will on others. Also do not forget, if you control legislation, the judges, the constitution, the police, etc, what is legal one day, can become illegal and prosecuted and persecuted pretty quickly.