- Jack Conte, Patreon's CEO, continues to let creators in Russia use the service.
- But banks and other financial services may stop payments from functioning.
- The company has waived fees for creators in Ukraine for the next three months.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Western governments and companies have mounted sanctions against the country. But Jack Conte, Patreon's CEO, is taking a different tack. The head of the large creator platform, which has thousands of creators in the region, decided to keep operating in Russia, allowing people to make money off the service.
Conte said he didn't want to punish creators for a political decision they had no say in. He discussed his company's position in an onstage interview with the tech podcast "Dead Cat."
"I don't think individual creators should have to pay for the misdeeds of their authoritarian leader. I don't want to put that on creative people," Conte said. "They may disagree with the war, and I don't want to punish them for their geographic location."
The interview took place at an event cohosted by the Newcomer newsletter and the voice-game company Volley during South by Southwest.
Conte acknowledged that the decision may be more symbolic than practical. Most US banks, along with financial-services companies such as Visa and Mastercard, no longer offer service in the country, so it's likely that many creators on the platform have still been affected.
During Russia's war in Ukraine, tech companies have played a key role in buttressing the government's sanctions. Apple, Google, and Slack have cut off services for Russian users in a bid to isolate the country. In response, the Russian government has banned services such as Facebook and Instagram, alleging the social-media platforms have been spreading misinformation.
The actions have been controversial, especially as they've affected individuals and small businesses. Influencers on Instagram have said that losing access to the app has been devastating. Earlier this month, many creators on Patreon's competitor OnlyFans discovered that their accounts had been locked. OnlyFans said those instances were a result of banking sanctions and reiterated that it, too, didn't want to punish creators.
Conte, in the interview, spoke out against Russian President Vladimir Putin and said he felt no empathy toward him.
He said if there was a way the company could punish Putin, it would. He said his decision to continue operating in Russia was not controversial internally at Patreon, which he said has a deeply ingrained culture of prioritizing creators.
He added that the company had also done what it could to support Ukraine by waiving creators' service fees in the country. Conte said Patreon has thousands of creators in Ukraine.
Editor's note, Tom Dotan is a cohost of the "Dead Cat" podcast.
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