Spotify will suspend its services in Russia in light of free speech crackdown

Spotify will discontinue 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 enacted a new law that criminalizes sharing what the government deems to be “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 using the word “war.”

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 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,” a Spotify spokesperson told TechCrunch. “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 considering different paths, Spotify opted to “fully suspend” its service in Russia, a process that will be complete by early April after the company wraps up logistics related to the move. Spotify previously suspended premium subscriptions in Russia, though the free version of the app remained available.

As most of the world looks on in horror, the Kremlin continues to tighten its grip on the flow of information, falsely spinning its actions over the last month as a liberation effort rather than a bloody war of choice claiming civilian lives. That push and its accompanying legal crackdown pose serious risks for anyone within the country sharing a perspective on the invasion that is at odds with the Russian government.