Spotify Reportedly Removes Russian Pro-War Artists, Raising Takedown Policy Questions

Spotify removes pro-war Russian artists that are sanctioned by the West
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Spotify removes pro-war Russian artists that are sanctioned by the West
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Photo Credit: Dmytro Tolokonov

Music streaming service Spotify has confirmed that it has removed the songs and profiles of pro-war Russian artists from its service. The removals come after Spotify suspended service in Russia and is focused on artists who are sanctioned by the West.

Bands affected include Lyube and the singers Grigory Leps, Oleg Gazmanov, Shaman, and Polina Gagarina, among others. Lyube, Leps, and Gazmanov have been under EU sanctions since 2022 when Russia launched a full-scale invasion of its neighbor, Ukraine. Both Shaman and Polina Gagarina were added to the latest EU sanctions list earlier this week.

“Platform rules clearly state that we take action when we identify content which explicitly violates our content policies or local laws,” a Spotify spokesperson said in an email statement to The Moscow Times about the removals. “Upon review, these artists met the threshold for removal.”

The ‘threshold for removal’ is a pretty high bar for Spotify, which has refused to remove content from artists including R. Kelly, Kanye West, and Diddy. While all three of these men have had various controversies—their music remains available to stream on Spotify.

Even at the height of content removal for “violation of our content policies,” only a handful of Joe Rogan episodes were removed. In 2022, Spotify suspended its streaming services in Russia and closed its offices after the Ukraine invasion.

Digital Music News reported in 2017 on neo-Nazi and white supremacist content used as recruiting tools for their organizations. 37 bands on Spotify with affiliation to white supremacist hate groups were found, with Spotify responding saying it would remove the content identified as created by hate groups.

“Spotify takes immediate action to remove any such material as soon as it has been brought to our attention,” Spotify told Digital Music News at the time. “We are glad to have been alerted to this content—and have already removed many of the bands identified today, whilst urgently reviewing the remainder.”

The Spotify spokes person continued, “illegal content or material that favors hatred or incites violence against race, religion, sexuality, or the like is not tolerated by us.” Despite that report in 2017, Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer, and YouTube continue to profit from hateful content.