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VPN’s being removed from Apple App Store on Russian orders

  • As many as 25 VPNs were banned from Apple’s App Store last week.
  • The ban was seemingly brought about in conjunction with the Russian government.
  • The VPN providers affected by this ban are calling for US lawmakers to investigate Apple and Russia’s relationship.

Reports allege that as many as 25 virtual private network (VPN) providers have had their apps removed from the Apple App Store in Russia, following a request from the government.

Russian news website Interfax reports that Roskomnadzor, Russia’s Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media, ordered Apple to remove the apps from the storefront. This as Russia banned the use of VPNs in March.

A VPN can be used to bypass certain restrictions put in place by platforms or even governments by spoofing your geographic location. Many use VPNs to bypass censorship in their country.

Last week, NordVPN, Proton VPN, Red Shield VPN and 22 others were banned but Russia seems to be continuing this battle.

As reported by Red Shield, Apple has now also removed AdGuard VPN, TipTop VPN, RuVPN, VPNIFY and Hotspot VPN from the Russian App Store. Red Shield is hoping to rally users, journalists and activists to demonstrate against these removals.

“The Russian authorities are blocking all popular foreign media and independent Russian media. Among the hundreds of thousands of blocked resources are Facebook and Instagram,” reads a petition started by VPN providers on Change.org.

“Some of the blocked VPN services are known for maintaining their availability to Russian users despite years of attempts by Russian authorities to block their operation using DPI (Deep Packet Inspection). VPN services are the only opportunity for those who are in Russia to access independent information. Thus, Apple helped Putin and his regime deny access to free information to hundreds of thousands of people in Russia. Despite statements about leaving the Russian market, Apple continues to collect payments in the Russian AppStore. Also, for example, in January 2024, Apple paid a fine to the Russian budget of approximately $13.4 million – and we remind you that a significant part of the Russian budget is spent on the war with Ukraine. We consider Apple’s actions, driven by fear of losing the Russian market, to be immoral and even criminal,” the petition alleges.

This claims made don’t exist in isolation. Earlier this year CNBC reported that despite Apple saying that it pulled out of Russia following its attack on Ukraine, the country’s stores were loaded with Apple products, including the Vision Pro.

The removal of these VPNs then is a bit of a red flag that suggests that perhaps Apple isn’t distancing itself from Russia as much as it wants the public to believe. As reported by TechCrunch, the VPNs were removed under the cover that they include content which is illegal in Russia but no real reason was provided.

The aforementioned petition calls on US lawmakers to investigate the relationship between Apple and Russia and Apple’s “open support of Putin’s censorship”.

Unfortunately, bowing the the pressure of horrible governments is a growing trend around the world. Much like Apple which continues to enforce rules of a country it no longer does business with, brands have joined forces with the Saudi Arabia monarchy to host the Esports World Cup this year, ignoring the countless human rights violations committed by the regime.

Sadly, paydays continue to trump doing the right thing when it comes to big tech and that isn’t going to change, possibly ever.

[Image – IGORN from Pixabay]

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