Since the beginning of the Russo-Ukraine war last month, a plethora of tech companies have suspended their services in Russia in some form or another in support of Ukraine. To wit, Google suspended all of its advertising in Russia because of the government’s demands to ban false advertising about the conflict. Now Spotify has announced that it will be suspending its services in the country in response to a new “fake news” law that restricts freedom of speech and freedom of the press.
According to The Verge, the audio streaming platform cited a new law President Vladimir Putin signed on March 4, 2022, that would sentence those who spread information about the Russian military Moscow classifies as false to 15 years in prison as the reason for its decision to disable access to it services. It said the shutdown is to protect its employees and listeners.
“Spotify has continued to believe that it’s critically important to try to keep our service operational in Russia to provide trusted, independent news and information in the region. Unfortunately, recently enacted legislation further restricting access to information, eliminating free expression, and criminalizing certain types of news puts the safety of Spotify’s employees and possibly even our listeners at risk,” the company said in a statement.
Spotify’s previous sanctions against Russia
Spotify’s decision to completely suspend its services in Russia is the latest in a series of sanctions it was imposed on the country amid its ongoing invasion of Ukraine. Two days before Putin signed the punitive “fake news” bill into law, Variety reported that the company indefinitely closed down its Russian office and removed Russian state-affiliated content from the platform, including Kremlin-backed media outlets KT and Sputnik.
On March 10, 2022, Spotify suspended its Premium subscription service in Russia in response to the invasion, which resulted in the loss of 1.5 million subscribers (per Digital Music News). That didn’t stop anyone in Russia from accessing Spotify in general because their accounts were going to be converted to the free tier at end of their subscription period.
Spotify is right to be concerned about its Russian employees and listeners who might face severe legal repercussions if they continue listening to news about the war in Ukraine from trusted media outlets that Moscow deems “fake news.” The government already banned Facebook for blocking Russian state-affiliated outlets and Instagram for allowing users to create posts critical of the country.