Spotify Announces Anti-Hate Content Policy, Removes R. Kelly’s Music From Playlists

By Sameer Rao May 10, 2018

Spotify took a step toward removing racist, discriminatory and other hateful content from its platform with the announcement of its new policy on hate content and hateful conduct today (May 10).

The music and audio streaming service outlined its definition of “hate content” in the following excerpt from an online statement:


We do not tolerate hate content on Spotify—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.

To that end, Spotify built a content oversight tool called Spotify AudioWatch, which draws from various international registries of hate content to identify potentially abusive audio. The company also partnered with civil rights organizations including Color of Change, Southern Poverty Law Center, Muslim Advocates, GLAAD and the Anti-Defamation League to determine standards for recognizing discriminatory material. The statement encourages users to contact Spotify support if they come across hateful content. Flagged subject matter will be subject to review and possible removal, per the company’s own consultation with the copyright holders.

"At the same time, however, it’s important to remember that cultural standards and sensitivities vary widely," the statement added. "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."

Spotify also reserves the right to remove content from curated and algorithm-driven playlists and promotions. The New York Times reported today that Spotify removed singer R. Kelly and rapper XXXTentacion from its curated playlists. Kelly stands accused of many violent sex crimes against Black women and teenage girls, while XXXTentacion faces multiple charges of aggravated battery and false imprisonment of a pregnant ex-girlfriend.

“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,” Spotify explained in a statement to The Times. “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.”

This action comes nearly a year after Spotify, responding to the White supremacist Unite the Right rally, removed racist and White nationalist artists from the streamer. The new policy has yet to reach all corners of the platform, however; a cursory search shows music from acts like Graveland and Johnny Rebel, both identified by the SPLC as racist and White supremacist artists, available for stream.