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Spotify Shuts Down Service in Russia, Citing New Censorship Law

The streamer had previously said it was important to keep the service going as a counter to Russian state propaganda about the war in Ukraine.

Spotify has shut down its streaming service in Russia, citing a new law imposed by the Kremlin earlier this month that restricts people’s ability to describe the conflict in Ukraine as a war started by Russia.

The streamer, which said on March 2 that it was shutting down its office in Russia “indefinitely” in protest of the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine by Vladimir Putin’s forces, had nevertheless tried to keep its service operational in Russia so it could offer customers there news through podcasts that countered Russian state propaganda.

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In a statement sent to Billboard on Friday (March 25), a Spotify spokesperson said, “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. After carefully considering our options and the current circumstances, we have come to the difficult decision to fully suspend our service in Russia.”

On March 4, Russia’s parliament passed a new law making it a criminal offense to disseminate “false” information about the country’s military, or to describe the events in Ukraine as a war. Individuals or entities that spread so-called “fake information” as deemed by the Russian state, or call for sanctions against Russia, risk up to 15 years in prison. The Kremlin has described the invasion as a “special military operation.”

The new law has led many foreign media outlets to send their correspondents home from Russia.

Spotify says it has reviewed thousands of pieces of content since the start of the war and has restricted the discoverability of shows owned and operated by Russian state-affiliated media, including by removing content from state-owned RT and Sputnik in the European Union and other markets.

But in its initial response to the war, the streamer also launched a “global guide” on the platform to provide users around the world with “trusted news” that includes the BBC, The Washington Post and others U.S. and European media outlets.

Since Western allies imposed economic sanctions, Spotify has been unable to monetize ads or to add new premium subscriptions, and the DSP was having difficulties pulling in revenue from existing subscriptions since credit card companies like Visa and Mastercard, and other payment-transaction services like PayPal, shut down in Russia.

Other streamers, including YouTube and TikTok, also suspended operations in Russia shortly after the initial invasion on Feb. 24, citing discomfort with Russian state propaganda about the conflict.

Spotify launched in Russia and Ukraine in 2020, along with 11 other emerging markets in Europe.