However well-intentioned it may have been, Spotify’s controversial policy to reduce “hate content and hateful conduct” on the streaming platform was short-lived. The company announced on May 24, 2018 that while its policy against hate content would remain in place, it will not “play judge and jury” when it comes to artist conduct.
It all started like this: Spotify announced on May 4, 2018 that it would remove music that was violent or hateful from its platform. The company also stated that it would no longer promote artists who demonstrated “hateful conduct.”
The policy had two parts. One part addressed promoting artists in the rare cases of the most extreme artist controversies, and the other addressed hate content. The policy was implemented on May 10.
While the music of removed artists would remain on Spotify, the service would not promote that music to its 70 million subscribers. The policy brought backlash from many of its listeners and artists.
R. Kelly was one of the artists who was removed from Spotify’s promotions. He has faced persistent allegations of sexual misconduct dating back more than a decade. Kelly has also been embroiled in controversy since a Buzzfeed article claimed the singer is holding a group of adult women against their will as part of what some of their parents claim is a cult.
The policy sparked a deluge of concerns about whether or not the company should be playing moral police.
Freshmen Ashley Thoonkuzhy said,”I do not think it is right for artists to be censored. In my opinion, the artist’s actions should not affect his or her music. Spotify should not have the right to decide on who is offensive or not.”
The policy, specifically the one addressing artist conduct, raised concern among musicians because they worried an allegation would hurt their chances at landing a Spotify playlist and ultimately have a negative impact on their careers.
Anthony Tiffith, CEO of Top Dawg Entertainment (Kendrick Lamar’s label), pushed back against Spotify’s policy by saying, “How did they just pick those artists out? How come they did not pick out any others from any other genres or any other different cultures? There are so many other artists that have different things going on, and they could have picked anybody. But it seems to me that they are constantly picking on hip-hop culture.”
On May 24, 2018 after high-profile dissent from the industry, including artists like Kendrick Lamar, Spotify restored “XXXTentacion” to its playlists. However, the company still has not brought R. Kelly back.
On May 30, 2018, Spotify CEO Daniel Ek addressed the concerns, saying that the company had rolled out the policy wrong. Now, in a new statement, Ek and Spotify have gone a step further by completely reversing a part of the policy. Specifically, the streaming service is doing away with the ‘Hateful Conduct’ portion.
Sophomore Kyle Siegel said, “I believe that Spotify could have done a better job wording and executing the policy. Spotify’s removal of the hateful conduct was a beneficial decision as artists should not be [censored] based on their past, in my opinion.”
The hate content part of the policy will still remain in effect, however. Spotify will not permit content whose principal purpose is to cause hatred or violence against people because of their race, religion, disability, gender identity, or sexual orientation. As they have done before, Spotify will remove content that violates that standard.
As with all policies, there is always backlash.
Women’s advocacy group UltraViolet is condemning Spotify’s decision to roll back its hateful conduct policy that banned R. Kelly, XXXTentacion and other musicians from its curated playlists, saying the act puts profits over people, and that it normalizes violence against women.
Shaunna Thomas, co-founder of UltraViolet, said, “When music platforms promote abusers, they allow those abusers to reap in profits, lining their pockets in royalties and expanding their fan bases. This normalizes violence against women. Spotify’s values are now clear for all to see: Abusers take priority over survivors of their crimes. We will not forget their decision.”
Ultimately, because of the backlash, Spotify will remove all hate speech, but will not remove artists based on their actions, as they do not intend to play moral police.
Do you support Spotify’s improved policy? Why or why not?