LONDON Reuters praised Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny scolded Google and Meta Platforms IncMeta Platforms Inc on Thursday for shutting down advertising, a move he said had undermined the opposition and was a gift to President Vladimir Putin.
Navalny, Russia's most prominent opposition leader, portrays Putin's Russia as a dystopian state run by thieves and criminals, where wrong is cast as right and judges are in fact representatives of a doomed lawless country.
Navalny, who is currently in a Russian jail, told the Copenhagen Democracy Summit that technology was being used by the state to arrest dissidents but also gave an opportunity to get to the truth, according to a written address by Navalny.
Navalny said in the address that the Internet gives us the ability to circumvent censorship, a copy of which was posted on his official blog.
At the same time, Google and Meta shutting down their advertising in Russia have deprived the opposition of the opportunity to conduct anti-war campaigns, giving a grandiose gift to Putin. Neither Meta nor Google responded immediately to a request for comment on Navalny's remarks. In March, both companies stopped advertising targeting users in Russia, just days after Russia invaded Ukraine.
Navalny earned admiration from the disparate Russian opposition for voluntarily returning to Russia from Germany in 2021, where he had undergone treatment for what Western laboratory tests showed was an attempt to poison him with a nerve agent in Siberia.
The Kremlin has repeatedly dismissed Navalny's claims about Putin, who it says has won numerous elections in Russia since 2000 and remains the country's most popular politician. Navalny's assertion that Russia poisoned him is not supported by it.
Navalny, a former lawyer who grew to prominence more than a decade ago by lampooning Putin's elite and voicing allegations of corruption on a vast scale, said that the titans of Silicon Valley had a lot of questions to answer.
He said that they would have to decide whether or not they were really neutral platforms and whether or not users in democracies should operate under the same rules as those in repressive societies.
How should the internet treat government directives, Norway and Uganda seem to have slightly different ideas about the role of the internet and democracy? He asked.
We love technology. We want to live in a free information society. 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.