'We don’t aim to play judge and jury:' Spotify pulls back on hateful content policy

Credit: AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File

Credit: AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File

After a mix of praise, criticism and backlash from advocates and musicians,  Spotify is pulling back on its public hate content and hateful conduct policy that was issued in May.

The policy, which considered hate content to be "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," removed music by R. Kelly and XXXTentacion from Spotify playlists.

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Rolling Stone reported that the streaming service announced Friday that the policy would still be in place, but the service won't be "judge and jury."

"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," the company said in an update Friday.

“It’s important to note that our policy had two parts,” the update said. “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.”

Related: Spotify removes R. Kelly’s music from playlists under new hateful content policy

Anthony "Top Dawg" Tiffith, CEO of Top Dawg Entertainment, was among those in the music business who were not fans of the policy. Tiffith's label is home to Kendrick Lamar, SZA and ScHoolboy Q among others. In an interview with Billboard, Tiffith said that he set up a phone call with Spotify founder and CEO Daniel Ek, Diddy and former Sony Music chief Tommy Mottola. It was that call that ultimately led to the change in policy, according to Tiffith.

“His intentions were good in terms of what they were trying to do, but it just came across wrong,” Tiffith said of Ek’s policy.

At the Code Conference Wednesday, Ek himself admitted that the company rolled out the policy incorrectly, saying, “The whole goal with this was to make sure that we didn’t have hate speech on the service. It was never about punishing one individual.”

To clear up confusion, Spotify reiterated the second part of the policy, which will remain in place.

“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.”

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