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THE MURKY MORALITY OF SPOTIFY'S LATEST MOVE

The backlash against Spotify’s new Hate Content and Hateful Conduct Public Policy has been immediate and fierce, despite the company’s alignment with organizations such as The Anti-Defamation League, GLAAD and the Southern Poverty Law Center to justify its freshly announced editorial positions about specific artists, beginning with R Kelly and XXXTentacion.

No matter how you dissect their confusing new edict, its real purpose, not to mention its conflicting values for similar offenders in other musical genres and ethnic groups, appears to be rooted more in agenda than principle.

It’s hard to ignore the fact that Spotify, whose considerable lead has been squeezed in recent months by Apple Music gains, has managed to dominate the news cycle since the controversial policy rolled out late last week, embedded with the hot-button issues of race, sexual violence and censorship.  

“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,” the announcement, first posted on the company’s blog, reads. “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.”

Yet, while Spotify’s new values are too lofty to allow XXXTentacion onto say, the RapCaviar playlist and its 9m followers, they seem to be quite willing overlook peers like Famous Dex (“JAPAN”) and Youngboy Never Broke Again (“Outside Today”) who have both been allegedly caught on camera engaging in the same behavior that resulted in the restriction of XXX. 

And why don’t these personal values seem to include artists of other genres but focus on the R&B star and the rapper? What about taking off songs from Dr. Luke then? Why wasn’t the past behavior of Gene Simmons, Jimmy Page, Ozzy Osbourne, Red Hot Chili Peppers or Sid Vicious applied here?

Jonathan Prince, who joined Spotify as Global Head of Communications and Public Policy in 2014, is rumored to be a major force behind this new policy.

Even if the actual agenda here is far from nefarious and completely earnest in its intent, the rollout was beyond naïve in its execution. A much simpler, less provocative way to handle this—and actually, could have been used to highlight a key benefit that customization provides—would have been for the service to address its stance, but then offer a “How-To Guide” on utilizing Spotify tools to mute those artists from your recommendations and feed, much like blocking unwelcome users on social networks or unwanted callers on a smart phone.

But Spotify wasn’t interested in lauding its tech. Instead, the company chose to mount a soapbox. In doing so, it revealed that its “values” ride the line of unconscious bias.

So here’s where we are now: Spotify—which is based in Sweden, a country with a predominantly white populace—is enforcing a policy rooted in “our values” by policing content created largely by African-American artists.  

There must be a more productive way to project one’s values.

Further reading: Troy Carter to Exit Spotify?

 

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