BELARUSALERT – DAY 67
Date: 16 October 2020
Tech giant accused of censorship
In search of an end-to-end encrypted platform to organise peaceful protests and rallies, the people of Belarus have turned towards an instant messaging app called Telegram. Due to its security, the autocratic government has no power of banning or invigilating the service, thus allowing Belarusians to gather and express their condemnation of the government’s deeds – the only measure they are able to take to spark a change. However, the American technological giant – Apple, a monopolistic distributor of Telegram on iOS devices, has requested Telegram to delete all the contents that identify the security agents and police. Although this may go hand in hand with their policies, striving to keep the platform a politically ‘clean’ cyberspace, Belarusians and foreign actors have accused the corporation of depriving Eastern European protestors of their last resort. In response, Apple said that these steps are aiming to prevent violence against the police, whose personal details are allegedly disclosed on Telegram. Tatiana Martynova – a Belarusian activist who fled to Ukraine, argues that Lukashenko’s government constantly shares vulnerable data of the protestors and they are the only actor using widespread violence including tortures, rapes, deprivation of basic human rights, etc.
This is not the first time Apple has engaged in severe internal clashes. In July, the company completely banned HKmap Live app, which was used by Hong Kong demonstrators to track police movements. Unlike China, however, Belarus holds no economic influence over Apple and thus it is highly doubtful that the actions are a result of pressure from Belarusian rulers.
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