Amidst allegations of sexual misconduct charged by numerous women, Time’s Up has called for an industry-wide boycott of R. Kelly with their #MuteRKelly campaign. Now, Spotify has announced that it’s pulling Kelly’s music from its curated playlist.
While not an outright ban (Kelly’s music will still be available on-demand), his music will be removed “from all Spotify owned and operated playlists and algorithmic recommendations,” the company announced Thursday in a statement to Billboard.
“His music will still be available on the service, but Spotify will not actively promote it,” Spotify explained. “We don’t censor content because of an artist’s or creator’s behavior, but we want our editorial decisions — what we choose to program — to reflect our values. When an artist or creator does something that is especially harmful or hateful, it may affect the ways we work with or support that artist or creator.”
The decision to remove Kelly’s music was the result of Spotify’s new hate content policy. While acknowledging the differing cultural standards of offensiveness, Spotify reportedly worked with advocacy groups including The Southern Poverty Law Center, The Anti-Defamation League, Color Of Change, Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ), GLAAD, Muslim Advocates, and the International Network Against Cyber Hate to help craft the new policy.
The policy reads, in part,
“Hate content is content that expressly and principally promotes, advocates, or incites hatred or violence against a group or individual based on characteristics, including, race, religion, gender identity, sex, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, veteran status, or disability. When we are alerted to content that violates our policy, we may remove it (in consultation with rights holders) or refrain from promoting or manually programming it on our service.”
Spotify will use a three-pronged reporting system — internal monitoring, consultations with expert partners, and user comments and reports — to determine hateful conduct or hate content. They’ve also launched a new monitoring tool they call Spotify AudioWatch to help identify hate content.
While Kelly is the first artist to be publicly impacted by the policy, this isn’t the first time Spotify has taken a stand against disagreeable content. Back in August, the streaming platform removed a range of white supremacist content from its catalog.
Speaking with Billboard, Spotify’s VP/Head of Content and Marketplace Policy Jonathan Prince said,
“I think that, frankly, all of us have become increasingly aware of the responsibility that we have when we make recommendations about content, and particularly when we’re doing that in a way that may send signals to our audience about what we believe and what we value. So we thought it was really past time for us to take a really over-arching look at that. These are really complicated issues and this is our first iteration of a really comprehensive policy. We’re going to continue to try to evolve our approach to these things.”
Kelly has had the specter of misconduct around him since the ’90s, with his first statutory rape case taking place in 1996 and the infamous tape of him allegedly urinating in a teenaged girl’s mouth surfacing in 2002. Last summer, he was accused of holding up to six woman in a “sex cult” that spans multiple states. More recently, a Buzzfeed exposé published just last week revealed further details of the sex cult plus fresh allegations from two women. One of those women, Lizzette Martinez, says that Kelly began grooming her in 1995 when she was just 17 after they met in a Miami shopping mall. She claims Kelly took her virginity while she was still underage and controlled “what I wore, how I spoke, who my friends were, who I could bring around.” He also allegedly pressured her to perform sexual acts against her will and hit her no fewer than five times during their relationship.
“He has a way with people, with women,” said Martinez. “He’s just so controlling, so abusive.”
Kelly has denied all the allegations levied against him, and RCA Records has so far refused to drop the singer.