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Spotify reverses Hateful Conduct policy amid cries of censorship

on June 01, 2018, 2:27pm

Earlier this month, Spotify introduced its new Hate Content and Hateful Conduct Policy. Its aim was to minimize their promotion of problematic artists, and led to R. Kelly and XXXTentacion’s music being removed from their curated playlists. Many, including followers of the #MuteRKelly movement, praised Spotify’s new ruling, but plenty others — including Kendrick Lamar — have expressed concern and disapproval over what they believed to be a form of targeted censorship against artists of color.

Just yesterday, Spotify CEO Daniel Ek addressed these 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 part of the policy.

Specifically, the streaming service is doing away with the Hateful Conduct portion. Upon its initial roll-out, Spotify claimed that if an artist “does something that is especially harmful or hateful (such as sexual violence), it may affect the ways we work with or support that artist or creator.” The new stance sees the company essentially walking back its sense of morality in exchange for neutrality (or rather, zero liability). “We don’t aim to play judge and jury,” reads their statement, adding, “Across all genres, our role is not to regulate artists.”

Echoing Ek’s previous comments, the new statement also says Spotify could’ve done a better job of wording and executing the policy. “And while we believe our intentions were good, the language was too vague, we created confusion and concern, and didn’t spend enough time getting input from our own team and key partners before sharing new guidelines.”

The Hate Content part of the policy will still remain in effect, however. “Spotify does not permit content whose principal purpose is to incite hatred or violence against people because of their race, religion, disability, gender identity, or sexual orientation,” the statement explains. “As we’ve done before, we will remove content that violates that standard. We’re not talking about offensive, explicit, or vulgar content – we’re talking about hate speech.”

It remains to be seen what the implementation of this updated policy will mean for Kelly and XXXTentacion. The latter’s catalog was restored to curated playlists after it was revealed the policy had impacted the rapper financially (Kelly actually saw an increase in streams). At the time of publishing, Kelly’s music is still not listed on any Spotify-curated playlists.

Read Spotify’s full statement below.

Spotify recently shared a new policy around hate content and conduct. And while we believe our intentions were good, the language was too vague, we created confusion and concern, and didn’t spend enough time getting input from our own team and key partners before sharing new guidelines.

It’s important to note that our policy had two parts. The first was related to promotional decisions in the rare cases of the most extreme artist controversies. As some have pointed out, this language was vague and left too many elements open to interpretation. We created concern that an allegation might affect artists’ chances of landing on a Spotify playlist and negatively impact their future. Some artists even worried that mistakes made in their youth would be used against them.

That’s not what Spotify is about. We don’t aim to play judge and jury. We aim to connect artists and fans – and Spotify playlists are a big part of how we do that. Our playlist editors are deeply rooted in their respective cultures, and their decisions focus on what music will positively resonate with their listeners. That can vary greatly from culture to culture, and playlist to playlist. Across all genres, our role is not to regulate artists. Therefore, we are moving away from implementing a policy around artist conduct.

The second part of our policy addressed hate content. Spotify does not permit content whose principal purpose is to incite hatred or violence against people because of their race, religion, disability, gender identity, or sexual orientation. As we’ve done before, we will remove content that violates that standard. We’re not talking about offensive, explicit, or vulgar content – we’re talking about hate speech.

We will continue to seek ways to impact the greater good and further the industry we all care so much about. We believe Spotify has an opportunity to help push the broader music community forward through conversation, collaboration and action. We’re committed to working across the artist and advocacy communities to help achieve that.

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