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Moscow court formally blocks Alexey Navalny's online project to defeat United Russia in regional elections

Meduza

Moscow Tagansky District Court judge Olga Sinelnikova has ruled against Alexey Navalny’s “Smart Vote” website, siding with Roskomnadzor and finding that Smart Vote violates Russia’s regulations on personal data storage. The information of people who register with the website is processed through the service Google Analytics, which is based in the United States. Sinelnikova ruled that this data legally needs to be stored on servers in Russia, and determined that Smart Vote prompts users to share their bank account information to purchase merchandise without disclosing how it handles the information.

Sinelnikova blocked not only the 2019.vote website, but also its mirror websites. The portal itself has been inaccessible to most Internet users in Russia since December 7, when Sinelnikova approved a preliminary block as an interim measure.

In court on December 19, Navalny's representatives acknowledged that Smart Vote might have initially violated Russia's privacy requirements, but argued that the website now features a transparent data-collection agreement and statement of terms.

In late November, Russian anti-corruption activist and opposition politician Alexey Navalny unveiled his latest project to undermine the Kremlin’s control over the Russian government. The new initiative, “Smart Vote,” will offer voting instructions in regional elections to maximize the odds of defeating the country’s ruling political party, United Russia. The project will be active for next year's gubernatorial race in St. Petersburg and Moscow's City Duma election.

Smart Vote is based on the fact that United Russia candidates often win elections with just 30-35 percent of the votes in a particular race, while the majority of votes are scattered among other candidates. Adapting the strategy he popularized in 2011, Navalny is now asking United Russia’s opponents to rally around whichever other candidate has the best chance of winning. Navalny’s team says it will identify this candidate in every race. “Understandably, there will always be debate on this issue, but our analysis will be honest and objective, and we’ll explain our selections, so most voters agree,” Navalny said in a video announcing the project.