R&B artist R. Kelly can no longer be found on playlists curated by streaming music giant Spotify after it introduced a new New Hate Content and Hateful Conduct Public Policy.
The gist of the policy is that if a recording is hateful, Spotify may “remove it (in consultation with rights holders) or refrain from promoting or playlisting it on our service.”
The service has defined hateful as “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.”
There’s also a provision for hateful people: if an artist “does something that is especially harmful or hateful (for example, violence against children and sexual violence)” Spotify says that “may affect the ways we work with or support that artist or creator.’
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Those “ways” can include removal from the service, which is what has happened to R. Kelly, who was found not guilty of sex crimes in a 2008 trial but has since become the subject of misconduct allegations and a #MuteRKelly campaign.
Spotify knows it is in tricky territory here. Its anouncement of the policy explains that it will need to evolve. The service has also acknowledged that “it’s important to remember that cultural standards and sensitivities vary widely. There will always be content that is acceptable in some circumstances, but is offensive in others, and we will always look at the entire context.”
The Register imagines the site is in for quite a time because one man’s Meat is Murder is another man’s Poison Arrow and it's asked users to report content. It will also have to figure out what to do with songs that depict some of the stuff in Spotify’s policy, but don’t espouse them (As it happens Vulture South was listening to Nick Cave's very NSFW Stagger Lee this afternoon, which is full of gratuitous swearing and sexual violence).
Spotify says it’s willing to deal with such debates, has teamed with advocacy groups to develop its policy and has built a tool to identify hateful content already flagged by others.
The streaming service is not alone in seeking to make hateful content harder to access: websites advocating white supremacy and violence have found it hard to stay online in recent months as web hosting companies and domain name registrars have declined to offer them service, often finding themselves accused of censorship for having done so.
By giving itself a policy platform from which to rule on such matters, Spotify has at least given an advance signal of what it finds acceptable. ®