The music streaming giant Spotify, with 75 million subscribers and 170 million monthly users, announced a new policy this morning regarding music that it believes to contain "hate content." Alongside the announcement, Spotify also confirmed that one of the first artists to be affected by the policy would be R. Kelly, the R&B singer who has been accused of extensive sexual misconduct dating back nearly two decades, but whose actions have been the subject of renewed focus in the last year. In April, Kelly was condemned by a group of women of color within the Time's Up movement, who called for labels and streaming services — including Spotify — to cut ties with the singer.
"We are removing R. Kelly's music from all Spotify owned and operated playlists and algorithmic recommendations such as Discover Weekly. His music will still be available on the service, but Spotify will not actively promote it," a further statement from Spotify provided to NPR reads. "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."
Spotify says it will take a three-tiered approach to policing hate on its platform. First, it is partnering with several advocacy groups — its announcement lists the Southern Poverty Law Center, The Anti-Defamation League, Color Of Change, Showing Up for Racial Justice, GLAAD, Muslim Advocates and the International Network Against Cyber Hate. (The groups will serve as "advisors," according to a company spokesperson.) Second, it is introducing an algorithmic internal monitor called AudioWatch. And third, a hear-something-say-something approach, giving people the option of reporting content as well.
"We believe in openness, diversity, tolerance and respect, and we want to promote those values through music and the creative arts," its policy begins. It goes on to define hate speech on the platform as any that promotes or incites violence towards people or groups because of "race, religion, gender identity, sex, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, veteran status, or disability." The company also states that when "an artist or creator does something that is especially harmful or hateful (for example, violence against children and sexual violence), it may affect the ways we work with or support that artist or creator."
Spotify has also removed the rapper XXXTentacion — who is facing charges of domestic abuse in Florida — from its popular Rap Caviar playlist, which, according to a report by The New York Times, included a song by the rapper as recently as Wednesday.