Spotify Removes 'Hateful Conduct' Provision From New Content Policy After Backlash

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Spotify is displayed on the screen of an iPhone on Jan. 6, 2017 in Paris.

Three weeks after Spotify announced a new policy regarding hate content and hateful conduct on its service, the company is walking back one of its most controversial provisions. In a blog post published today (June 1), the company said it was moving away from its "hateful conduct" provision, which had led to the service removing the music of R. Kelly, XXXTentacion and Tay-K from its editorial and algorithmic owned and operated playlists.

In the blog post, the service acknowledges that it got the rollout of the policy wrong, echoing comments that CEO Daniel Ek made earlier this week at Recode's tech conference. "Spotify recently shared a new policy around hate content and conduct," the post begins. "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."

Last week, Bloomberg reported that Spotify would be softening their stance and allowing XXXTentacion's music to return to playlists, though it appears that R. Kelly's music is still not on any of Spotify's own playlists. A spokesperson declined to comment on individual artists.


"We created concern that an allegation might affect artists’ chances of landing on a Spotify playlist and negatively impact their future," the post reads. "Some artists even worried that mistakes made in their youth would be used against them. That’s not what Spotify is about."

The policy's hate content provision, under which songs or artists whose music includes hateful content would be removed from the service, will still be in effect. No artists' music, including those three artists who were originally de-playlisted, had been removed from Spotify.

The provision was met with a strong reaction on both sides when it was announced May 10, with many cheering Spotify's decision to take a stand and many others fearing that it opened the service up to questions, suggesting it would be put in the position of being judge and jury, if not quite executioner, on an artist-by-artist basis. Several described the policy as a potentially slippery slope, given that none of the three artists had actually been convicted of some of the crimes for which they were in headlines lately. And still others questioned why the three artists initially targeted were black artists in the hip-hop/R&B genres, when others had faced similar or worse allegations.

"We don’t aim to play judge and jury," the company continues. "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."