Following a call by Time's Up, Spotify is muting R. Kelly from its programmed playlists, promotions, and recommendation systems. The move is part of Spotify's newly announced hate content and hateful conduct public policy. And, in a report in the New York Times, the company revealed they have also severed promotional ties with XXXTentacion.
In a statement, Spotify addressed how the code addresses content made by problematic artists like Kelly and XXXTentacion. Saying in a statement that they've thought "long and hard" about how to deal with content from creators who "have demonstrated hateful conduct personally," Spotify ultimately decided not to go so far as to remove their music from the platform, but to decline to promote it. "While we don’t believe in censoring content because of an artist’s or creator’s behavior, we want our editorial decisions - what we choose to program - to reflect our values. So, in some circumstances, 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," the company says.
Elsewhere in the statement, Spotify acknowledges that "cultural standards and sensitivity vary widely," and they close the introduction of this policy by leaving themselves some room to learn. "These are complicated issues, and we’re going to continue to revise our Policy on Hate Content and Hateful Conduct. We’ll make some mistakes, we’ll learn from them, and we’ll always listen to you as we work to keep building the Spotify platform," it reads.
Kelly was specifically targeted by Time's Up and the #MuteRKelly campaign following decades of alleged abuse of women, varying from allegations that he had sex with minors to the more recent allegations that he has pressed several women into a sex cult. This week, two more women came forward and accused Kelly of abuse. Kelly denies all of the allegations. None of the other companies charged by the two entities to sever ties with Kelly, including his record label, Apple Music, and Live Nation, have responded.
In a statement from Kelly's representatives to Entertainment Tonight, they respond saying, in part, "He is innocent of the false and hurtful accusations in the ongoing smear campaign against him, waged by enemies seeking a payoff...Spotify has the right to promote whatever music it chooses, and in this case its actions are without merit. It is acting based on false and unproven allegations. It is bowing to social-media fads and picking sides in a fame-seeking dispute over matters that have nothing to do with serving customers. Meanwhile, though, Spotify promotes numerous other artists who are convicted felons, others who have been arrested on charges of domestic violence and artists who sing lyrics that are violent and anti-women in nature. Mr. Kelly falls into none of these categories, and it is unfortunate and shortsighted that Spotify fails to recognize this."
XXXTentacion made his debut at No. 1 on the Billboard charts at the end of March, despite facing charges of abuse of his pregnant girlfriend, along with multiple charges of witness tampering. The disturbing details, which he denies are true, were published in the fall but did not stop Caroline Records from signing him to a reported multi-million dollar deal. Upon his album's release, XXXTentacion had multiple singles in Spotify's Top 50 charts and on their influential Rap Caviar playlist. The company did not release any specific information on why they have severed promotional ties with him.
In lieu of a comment, representitives for XXXTentacion offered a question: they'd like to know if Spotify will be removing several artists accused and/or convicted of various acts of sexual misconduct from their promotion also. The list includes Michael Jackson, Nick Carter of the Backstreet Boys, James Brown, Nelly, and Miguel.
Spotify declined to further discuss any artists by name.
The hateful content and hateful conduct policy also targets music that is hateful, such as white power music. The company revealed that they have teamed with multiple 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 them identify hate content and that they have created "internal content monitoring tool [called] Spotify Audio Watch" in order to catch content that has been flagged on international registers as hate content.
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