However well-intentioned it may have been, Spotify's controversial policy to reduce "hate content and hateful conduct" on the streaming platform was short-lived. The company announced Friday that while its policy against hate content remains in place, it will not "play judge and jury" when it comes to artist conduct.
The brief timeline of events goes like this: Early in May, Spotify announced it would scrub music that was violent or hateful from its platform, and also said it would no longer promote artists who demonstrated "hateful conduct." Under that second half of the policy, the streaming service removed R. Kelly and XXXTentacion from its promoted playlists while keeping the music available on the platform.
Such actions sparked a deluge of concerns about whether the company should be playing moral police. On May 24th, after high-profile dissent from the industry, including artists like Kendrick Lamar, Spotify restored XXXTentacion to its playlists. On May 30th, Spotify chief executive Daniel Ek admitted the roll-out was a flub, in a rare interview, adding that the company "could have done a much better job."
Read the company's statement below.
Spotify's Official Policy Update to Its Hate Content and Hateful Conduct Policy
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.