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Spotify to Suspend Service in Russia Following New Media Law

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Highlights:

  • Spotify is suspending its services in Russia.
  • The company removed content from Kremlin-backed outlets RT and Sputnik and closed its office in Russia.
  • Other tech companies have similarly shut down services in Russia in response to its invasion of Ukraine.

Spotify is suspending its services in Russia as the country’s invasion of Ukraine continues into its second month. In a statement, the company appears to reference Russia’s new law that punishes spreading fake news about the military with up to 15 years in prison as the primary reason for why it’s shutting down in the country. Spotify will discontinue access to its streaming services in Russia in light of the country’s dramatic new restrictions on free speech.

“Spotify has continued to believe that it’s critically important to try and keep our service operational in Russia to provide trusted, independent news and information in the region,” according to a Spotify spokesperson, who asked not to be named because of “the situation in Russia.” “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. After carefully considering our options and the current circumstances, we have come to the difficult decision to fully suspend our service in Russia.” The company expects for service to be fully suspended by early April, the spokesperson said.

Russia’s media law restricts outlets and people from even referring to the invasion of Ukraine as a war; instead, they must use the term “special military operation” or face up to 15 years in prison.

Western news outlets including CNN, ABC, and the BBC pulled their broadcasts and operations within Russia in response to the law, which can carry up to a 15-year prison sentence. While Spotify is primarily a music streaming platform, the company is increasingly investing in podcasts that incorporate politics and current events — a direction that’s already entangled it in a number of controversies.

Spotify removed content from Kremlin-backed outlets RT and Sputnik and closed its office in Russia earlier in March, but this new step goes further by shutting down the streaming service in the country. The company also said in March that its paid subscription service would no longer be available in Russia.

Other tech companies have similarly shut down services in Russia in response to its invasion of Ukraine. However, Russia has taken some actions of its own, including banning Meta’s Facebook and Instagram.

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