Spotify closes Russia office, removes RT and Sputnik amid tech crackdown

3 Mar 2022

Image: © HTGanzo/Stock.adobe.com

While Spotify closes its Russia office, Uber offers free rides to refugees and EA strips Russia from FIFA games.

Spotify has become the latest major tech company to join other global businesses taking a stand amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The streaming service has closed its offices in Russia “indefinitely” and removed all RT and Sputnik content on its platform for users outside of Russia.

Future Human

However, the company fell short of disabling its services in Russia, saying in a statement yesterday (2 March) that it is “critically important to try to keep our service operational in Russia to allow for the global flow of information”.

Spotify is one of the companies that has complied with a new law in Russia that requires foreign tech companies with more than 500,000 daily users to establish local offices in the country. It first launched its services in Russia and Ukraine in 2020.

Also suspending business in Russia are major multinational software companies Oracle and SAP. Both companies were contacted by Ukraine’s vice prime minister Mykhailo Fedorov, who has been taking to Twitter with a focus on the digital side of the country’s fight against Russia.

Oracle replied to a tweet by Fedorov in which it confirmed that it is suspending all operations in Russia “on behalf of Oracle’s 150,000 employees around the world and in support of both the elected government of Ukraine and for the people of Ukraine”.

SAP said in a statement that it is stopping business in Russia aligned with sanctions and pausing all sales of SAP services and products in Russia. It has also donated €1m in humanitarian support to Ukraine and is working with organisations to offer its technology to support civilians.

In-app donations and free cross-border rides

Meanwhile, Uber announced yesterday that it is adding an in-app feature for users in the US to make donations to the International Rescue Committee, with plans to expand the feature in other countries “in the coming days”.

The ride-hailing company said it will match these donations up to $1m. It also vowed to donate an additional $500,000 to the Red Cross and the UN World Food Programme to help Ukrainian civilians in distress.

Perhaps most notably, Uber is also providing unlimited free cross-border trips between Ukraine and Polish cities to help support the movement of refugees.

Revolut boasted great success with its own in-app donation feature last week, open to select countries in Europe and Singapore, which saw more than £1m raised by customers in less than 24 hours.

The fintech has now added 17 new European countries to that list – with a promise match every donation made to the Red Cross in the coming days, up to £1.5m.

“For every pound or euro or złoty or franc donated by a Revolut customer to the appeal, Revolut will donate the same again,” Revolut CEO Nik Storonsky, who is of Ukrainian heritage, wrote in a letter posted on the company website.

Entertainment and censorship

Fedorov’s next target is a group of global gaming companies with significant operations in Russia, including Microsoft’s Xbox and Sony’s PlayStation.

In a series of tweets, he requested gaming companies to “temporarily block all Russian and Belarusian accounts”, temporarily stop them from participating in all international e-sports events and cancel all international events being held in the two countries.

Fedorov also urged game developers such as Riot Games, EA, Ubisoft, Gameloft and Wargaming to shut their offices in Russia.

EA has already announced it is removing all Russian teams from its FIFA football games “in line with our partners at FIFA and UEFA”. It is also removing the Russian and Belarusian national teams from its NHL 22 hockey game.

Meanwhile, Wikipedia has run into trouble with censorship authorities in Russia after one of its articles on the Russian invasion of Ukraine was accused of having inaccurate information on Russian military and Ukrainian civilian casualties. The country’s federal censorship arm has now threatened to block Wikipedia.

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic

editorial@siliconrepublic.com