Spotify to leave Russian market
Spotify has announced it will leave Russia for good in response to a ‘fake news law’ adopted earlier this month that prohibits the broadcast of, what is deemed to be, false information about the Russian military.
The platform made the announcement on Friday, calling the decision “difficult.” The platform acknowledged it will have to take several “operational steps” to fully withdraw from the country, but plans to completely suspend its service by early April.
The streaming giant claims it had to weigh, what it described as, the “critical importance” of providing “trusted, independent news and information in the region” against “recently enacted legislation further restricting access to information, eliminating free expression, and criminalizing certain types of news,” which puts “the safety of Spotify’s employees and possibly even our listeners at risk.”
The fake news law Spotify refers to, while accompanied by harsh punishments of up to 15 years imprisonment, is focused on deliberately spreading lies about the Russian military. It adopted in response to a sweeping crackdown by Western social media platforms – such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube – on Russian news entities and even content deemed sympathetic to the Russian side of the current conflict in Ukraine.
While announcing, along with most other major tech platforms, that it was “shocked” and “saddened” by Moscow's military attack on Ukraine, Spotify continued to operate in Russia for weeks even after shuttering its local office “indefinitely” and banning all content from state-funded new outlets RT and Sputnik from its platform.
The platform even got into the fact-checking game – partnering with the likes of the New York Times, the BBC, the Wall Street Journal, and the Guardian, as well as podcast “explainers” – to deliver ‘approved’ content about the conflict.
Many of these media outlets could have run afoul of the “fake news” law, given they have shared false stories and rumors, in the past.
Spotify has only been operational in Russia and Ukraine since 2020. Like other foreign social media companies with a certain number of users, it was required under a law passed last July to open a local office in March 2022 or be subject to restrictions and potential bans. However, in common with many other Western social media platforms, it has opted to shut down its operations in the country entirely.