If you stand against Russia’s de facto dictatorship you have another enemy besides Prime Minister Vladimir Putin: Microsoft. According to a New York Times report, the Russian government is using a new tactic “for quelling dissent: confiscating computers under the pretext of searching for pirated Microsoft software.” Furthermore, the Russian state is doing this with the help of Microsoft’s Russian attorneys.
Microsoft, reports the New York Times, doesn’t start these inquiries and only does what they’re required to do by Russian law. The dissentients, ranging from environmentalists to journalists, tell a different story. “Without the participation of Microsoft, these criminal cases against human rights defenders and journalists would simply not be able to occur,” said Russian newspaper editor Sergey Kurt-Adzhiyev.
Microsoft doesn’t merely quietly allow the Russian government to seize computers in the name of software thief. Instead, Microsoft ignores requests from help from the targeted companies and instead provides “testimony to the police about the value of the software that Baikal Wave [an environmentalist group] was accused of illegally obtaining.”
Faced with these accusations, Microsoft public relations said that it would make sure its Russian lawyers would have “more clearly defined responsibilities and accountabilities.” Microsoft also stated that “We have to protect our products from piracy, but we also have a commitment to respect fundamental human rights.” Tell that to the groups in Russia that have their records ripped open and destroyed.