Report: Microsoft used to suppress Russian dissidents

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Dissidents’ computers are being suppressed by the police by using the pretext of searching for pirated copies of software belonging to Microsoft, according to a report by The New York Times.

The group, Baikal Environmental Wave, were protesting against Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s plan to reopen a paper factory known to have polluted a lake that is known to hold some 20 percent of the world’s fresh water – Lake Baikal.

While the police claimed that the group was using pirated software, the group said that their software was legitimate, with a co-chairwoman for the group stating that Microsoft did not help them to find that they had legitimate software. The computers also had the “Certificate of Authenticity” stickers, but they were gone once they were being taken in by the police.

The raid saw 12 computers confiscated, its website taken down and its finances all over the place. It also meant that the group’s plans were now in police hands, as well as personal information.

“They removed our computers because we actively took a position against the paper factory and forcefully voiced it,” Galina Kulebyakina, a co-chairwoman for Baikal Wave said.

“They can do pretty much what they want, with impunity.”

However, the group isn’t the only victims, says the New York Times, with several advocacy groups or opposition newspapers have been targeted using this pretext.

It also appears Microsoft is involved, with lawyers used by Microsoft have been helping the police with such claims. One even claimed that a Microsoft lawyer told him that he was going to sue, despite Microsoft publicly claiming that it would not do so.

“Microsoft says publicly that they have no claims in these cases, but then their lawyers come into the court and say whatever the police want them to say,” one person told the New York Times.

Microsoft representatives in Moscow and in Redmond have denied that they are assisting in law enforcement in targeting advocacy groups.

“We take the concerns that have been raised very seriously,” Kevin Kutz, director for public affairs for the Windows and Office maker, told the New York Times.

“We have to protect our products from piracy, but we also have a commitment to respect fundamental human rights. Microsoft antipiracy efforts are designed to honor both objectives, but we are open to feedback on what we can do to improve in that regard.”

Image: Skye Suicide/Flickr

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