Spotify reverses course, will not take action on artists accused of mistreating women

The company also clarified that it would still remove music filled with speech that incited "hated or violence."
by Claire Atkinson /  / Updated 
Image: Spotify
Daniel Ek, CEO of Spotify, speaks to reporters at a news conference in New York on May 20, 2015.Don Emmert / AFP - Getty Images file

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Spotify on Friday walked back its policy governing how the streaming music platform will treat the work of musicians accused of harassment and violence — a move that likely will not be popular with the women of the #MeToo movement.

The streaming music giant said in a blog post that it is "moving away from implementing a policy around artist conduct" after receiving criticism for removing artists R. Kelly and rapper XXXTentacion from its playlists, which are a popular way users listen to music on Spotify.

Later, XXXTentacion was restored to playlists after an outcry from fans and people in the music industry.

"Spotify recently shared a new policy around hate content and conduct," the company said in its post. "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."

"We don’t aim to play judge and jury," the company added in the post.

A spokesperson for Spotify declined to comment on whether the change means the company will put R. Kelly's music back on its playlists.

The company also clarified that it would still remove music filled with speech that incited "hated or violence" against specific groups but would not remove content that was "offensive, explicit or vulgar."

Controversy around R. Kelly has intensified recently after numerous publications spoke with women who accused him of sexual misconduct and coercion, claims he has denied. XXXTentacion was shown on video hitting a pregnant woman, which his lawyers say "was taken completely in jest."

Spotify's actions have highlighted the sensitive position the company occupies as one of the most popular ways for people to listen to music at a time when the entertainment industry is undergoing a major cultural shift in how it deals with men accused of sexual harassment and assault.

Spotify's removal of R.Kelly and XXXTentacion from playlists sparked cries that the company was selectively instituting its new policy, with XXXTentacion pointing out that Spotify did not take similar action with regard to a wide variety of artists have been accused of misconduct.

Hilary Rosen, the former head of the Recording Industry Association of America who has been an outspoken advocate for the music industry to take action against artists who mistreat women, said that claims of censorship avoid the more serious question of what the industry is doing about misconduct.

"This is about sexually predatory behavior, and Spotify and everyone else in the industry knows it," Rosen told NBC News on Thursday. "Hiding behind a censorship claim is a disservice to the brave women who have come forward and spoken out despite the lack of support in a totally male-dominated business."

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