Putin warns against increasing influence of tech giants

Russian President Vladimir Putin today warned against the increasing influence of large technology companies, which he said are “competing” with states.

His comments came as Russia ramps up pressure on the activities of foreign internet companies, which are not subject to state censorship unlike the majority of the country’s media outlets.

“These are not just economic giants. In some areas they are already de facto competing with the state,” Putin said during his address to the Davos virtual economic summit.

The Russian leader said it is unclear where the line is between a “succesful global business” and “attempts to crudely, at their own discretion, control society”.

“We just saw it all in the States,” he added, referring to riots earlier this month in Washington led by supporters of then US President Donald Trump.

Moscow earlier this week accused US tech giants of interfering in Russia’s internal affairs, in particular during anti-government protests led by supporters of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny on Saturday.

Ahead of the rallies, Russia’s media watchdog Roskomnadzor ordered several online platforms, including YouTube and Instagram, to delete posts by users calling for protesters to attend demonstrations.

Today, the chairman of the lower house State Duma’s foreign interference committee, Vasily Piskaryov, said that the head of TikTok’s Russian branch had been invited to parliament for a conversation.

Piskaryov was cited by the TASS news agency as saying that “questions had piled up” about the China-based video-sharing service.

In recent months, TikTok has emerged as a popular platform for young Russians to express their political views.

Hashtags dedicated to Navalny have been trending on TikTok, garnering more than 1.5 billion views, after the anti-corruption campaigner was jailed on his return to Russia from Germany.

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