Spotify admits fault, will work with civil rights groups on Hate Content policy

It was only days ago that Spotify made waves in the entertainment industry by removing R. Kelly, Tay-K, and XXXTentacion from its curated and algorithmic playlists on the back of its newly minted Hate Content & Hateful Conduct Policy.

Following some serious backlash from Spotify employees, music writers, and artists — including Pulitzer Prize-winning rapper Kendrick Lamar — regarding the policy’s ill-defined rules of enforcement and its rushed, haphazard implementation, Spotify CEO Daniel Ek admitted fault and revealed that the streaming giant is currently at work on a new version of the policy, aided by civil rights activists.

“We rolled this out wrong and could have done a much better job,” Ek said yesterday at the Code Conference in Rancho Palos Verdes. Ek called the policy “vague” and said that Spotify never intended to serve “as the morality police” regarding artists’ behavior and lyrical content. Apparently, Spotify previously worked with the Southern Poverty Law Center, LGBTQ alliance organization GLAAD, and the Anti-Defamation League to craft the Hate Policy, but that didn’t stop them from sanctioning XXXTentacion — real name Jahseh Onfroy — whose music was recently reinstated on Spotify playlists after well-documented outcries from Lamar and others.

Criticisms of the policy largely cited Spotify’s decision to act as judge and jury and questions of racism arose after the service removed young black artists like Onfroy and Tay-K while ignoring droves of white artists — examples include Gene Simmons and Ozzy Osbourne — with similar criminal backgrounds.

Kelly — currently under investigation for a lengthy list of serious allegations — has not seen his place in Spotify playlists restored, and in fact, other services like Apple Music and Pandora have also taken steps to reduce Kelly’s visibility on their platforms.

Hilary Rosen, former head of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), reportedly reached out to Ek, encouraging him to stick to his guns: “When you [sanctioned Kelly, et al] you continued Spotify being a little ahead of the industry … I wonder if, now that you’ve backtracked on that, whether you’ve lost that moral authority.”

Ek responded with “That’s obviously for other people to judge at the end of the day.”