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Spotify said Friday it’s pulling out of Russia entirely because recent laws restricting news operations could put the streamer’s employees and listeners at risk. It expects operations to be fully suspended by the end of April.
Spotify’s decision to pull out of Russia underscores the balance that Western media companies need to strike as they want to provide news to Russian citizens while facing significant challenges related to the country’s invasion of Ukraine and the country’s business environment.
Spotify is best known as a music streamer, but it also hosts and distributes a range of podcasts with political content.
Spotify previously stopped offering Premium subscriptions in Russia, but its free service was still available. It said earlier this month that it would close an office in the country and removed Russian state media content.
“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,” a Spotify spokesperson said in a statement.
Other tech firms including Apple and Google have pulled back and stopped offering products and services in Russia. Several banks and retail brands such as McDonald’s and Starbucks have also stopped operating in the country after it invaded Ukraine last month. Companies that continue to operate in the country face challenges including limited payment services, logistical challenges and a weak ruble.
But Spotify’s decision is based more on the country’s recent crackdown on news and other media that could shine a negative light on the Russian war.
Several English-language news organizations have examined how to keep reporters and other staff safe in Russia in response to the country’s “false news” law that effectively outlaws independent reporting.
The BBC suspended Russian operations earlier this month before announcing it would resume reporting. CNN and The New York Times have also scaled back their staff and operations in the country, and some newspapers are removing bylines from reporters in Russia.