Bonum Certa Men Certa

Microsoft Would Have Helped Stalin, Too

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Medvedev and Windows
Credit: kremlin.ru, modified with permission.



Summary: Microsoft is "enabling tyranny" in Russia (to borrow words from the US Senate) by crushing political dissent and other humanitarian movements in the great country

DR. GLYN MOODY has just found a rather shocking new article from The New York Times, which is unlikely to sensationalise or exaggerate because it's subjected to a lot of scrutiny. Moody labels Microsoft "Enemy of Human Rights in Russia" because of this article.



As a little bit of background, consider the relationship between Microsoft and Russian president Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian spy fiasco which we mentioned many times in July [1, 2], Microsoft's handing out of Windows source code to the KGB equivalent, and the fact that Microsoft is attacking GNU/Linux adoption in Russian schools [1, 2] (more links at the bottom of this post show the nefarious means used).

For quite a few years now there have been known stories of Russian authorities selecting politically-active victims (usually journalists) and using Microsoft to crack down on them, eventually locking them up in some prison. Microsoft also did this in Kyrgyzstan [1, 2], as reported earlier this year.

Watch what Microsoft is doing in Russia:

Instead, the group fell victim to one of the authorities’ newest tactics for quelling dissent: confiscating computers under the pretext of searching for pirated Microsoft software.

Across Russia, the security services have carried out dozens of similar raids against outspoken advocacy groups or opposition newspapers in recent years. Security officials say the inquiries reflect their concern about software piracy, which is rampant in Russia. Yet they rarely if ever carry out raids against advocacy groups or news organizations that back the government.

As the ploy grows common, the authorities are receiving key assistance from an unexpected partner: Microsoft itself. In politically tinged inquiries across Russia, lawyers retained by Microsoft have staunchly backed the police.

[...]

Given the suspicions that these investigations are politically motivated, the police and prosecutors have turned to Microsoft to lend weight to their cases. In southwestern Russia, the Interior Ministry declared in an official document that its investigation of a human rights advocate for software piracy was begun “based on an application” from a lawyer for Microsoft.

In another city, Samara, the police seized computers from two opposition newspapers, with the support of a different Microsoft lawyer. “Without the participation of Microsoft, these criminal cases against human rights defenders and journalists would simply not be able to occur,” said the editor of the newspapers, Sergey Kurt-Adzhiyev.


They are even framing them if they do everything in the most prudent of ways. They use Microsoft as a weapon of criminalisation regardless of reality and Microsoft is by all means an active collaborator:

They said they told the officers that they were mistaken, pulling out receipts and original Microsoft packaging to prove that the software was not pirated. The police did not appear to take that into consideration. A supervising officer issued a report on the spot saying that illegal software had been uncovered.

Before the raid, the environmentalists said their computers were affixed with Microsoft’s “Certificate of Authenticity” stickers that attested to the software’s legality. But as the computers were being hauled away, they noticed something odd: the stickers were gone.

In all, 12 computers were confiscated. The group’s Web site was disabled, its finances left in disarray, its plans disclosed to the authorities.


As Moody stresses, this helps show that Free software is crucial to one's national freedom, not just individual freedom:

Of course, there's a simple solution to all this: use free software. With that, no stickers are needed, and so there's no way the authorities can frame you for using it. Indeed, given free software's greater security, I can't really understand why human rights groups aren't routinely installing it anyway. Let's hope they learn from these awful experiences and switch soon - not least for Lake Baikal's sake.


Microsoft was recently accused in the US senate of "enabling tyranny" in China [1, 2]. Add Russia and Kyrgyzstan to this list.

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