Spotify has closed its office in Russia and removed content from Kremlin-backed outlets RT and Sputnik, Variety reports. In addition, it also limits the findability of content from other outlets affiliated with the Russian government. Reuters reports that content from RT and Sputnik has been removed in several markets, including the United States and the European Union, but not in Russia itself. In total, Spotify says it has reviewed thousands of pieces of content since the start of the war.
Closing Spotify’s Russian office means that from July 2021 the company will no longer comply with a Russian law requiring foreign social media companies with more than 500,000 daily users to have a local office in the country. Failure to comply means that these services may face restrictions up to and including ban in the country, Reuters reports.
For now, the music streaming service says it will continue to stream in Russia, a market it entered in July 2020 alongside Ukraine and 10 other European countries. “We think it’s critical to try to keep our service operational in Russia to enable the global flow of information,” said a Spotify spokesperson. Variety.
“Our number one priority over the past week has been the safety of our employees and ensuring Spotify continues to serve as a major source of global and regional news at a time when access to information is more important than ever,” Spotify said in a statement. “We are deeply shocked and saddened by the unprovoked attack on Ukraine.” The company also links employee donations to humanitarian efforts in the country two-to-one, and has launched a new guide on the platform to direct its users to trusted news sources, according to Variety†
Spotify’s removal of RT and Sputnik is the latest example of attempts to limit the reach of state-backed Russian media. The European Union has ordered their removal from the block, and tech platforms including YouTube, Facebook and TikTok have complied by blocking their accounts, with Apple and Google following suit in their respective app stores.
The ban is a notable move by Spotify, which has historically taken a lighter approach to content moderation on its service. This year it faced tough questions and protests for hosting Joe Rogan’s podcast exclusively in a deal reportedly worth $200 million. The popular podcast host has been criticized for promoting misinformation about COVID-19 and using racist language. Even after dozens of episodes of the podcast disappeared from the platform, the company’s CEO Daniel Ek said it was Rogan himself who chose to remove them.