Spotify will suspend access to its streaming services in Russia in light of the country’s dramatic new restrictions on free speech.
In early March, the Russian parliament passed a new law criminalizing sharing what the government considers “false information” about Russia’s operations in Ukraine. The new restrictions also punish any speech that undermines the military, including describing the war in Ukraine with the word “war.”
Western news channels, including CNN, ABC and the BBC, have suspended their broadcasts and operations in Russia in response to the law, which could carry a prison sentence of up to 15 years. While Spotify is primarily a music streaming platform, the company is increasingly investing in podcasts that incorporate politics and current events — a direction that has already mired it in a number of controversies.
“Spotify has continued to believe that it is critical to try to keep our service operational in Russia in order to provide reliable, independent news and information in the region,” a Spotify spokesperson told thenewsupdate. “Unfortunately, recently passed legislation that further restricts access to information, disables free speech, and criminalizes certain types of news puts the safety of Spotify employees and possibly even our listeners at risk.”
After considering several paths, Spotify chose to “completely suspend” its service in Russia, a process that will be completed in early April after the company finalizes logistics related to the move. Spotify previously suspended premium subscriptions in Russia, although the free version of the app remained available.
As most of the world watches in horror, the Kremlin continues to tighten its grip on the flow of information, misrepresenting its actions over the past month as a liberation effort rather than a bloody war of its choice claiming civilian lives. Those pressures and the accompanying legal crackdown pose serious risks to anyone in the country who shares a perspective on the invasion that is at odds with the Russian government.