Apple then disabled its Private Relay feature (which enhances web browsing privacy) for users in Russia. Google also removed YouTube videos giving advice on how to vote strategically in the elections.
In the past, large tech companies have generally ignored censorship requests from the Russian government. So why did the U.S. tech giants finally cave in to pressure?
The answer provides a glimpse into how Russia, a sophisticated cyber superpower, is building its sovereign internet. It is preserving control, but without isolating itself from the broader Internet.
Is digital democracy a delusion?
Apple and Google have both placed democratic values at the center of their sales pitch.
Google used to have "don't be evil" as its unofficial motto and within its code of conduct. It now proclaims its mission is to "organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful."
Apple's official policy is that "where national law and international human rights standards differ, we follow the higher standard." Such marketing claims draw on the language of cyber-utopianism, a concept that sees the Internet as a force for democracy in the world.
But many experts have been skeptical; U.S. researcher Evgeny Morozov famously called cyber-utopianism a "delusion." This skepticism has increased in recent years, with mounting evidence of a conflict between democratic values and the core business model of for-profit tech companies.