Spotify Stops Promoting R. Kelly's Music After Sexual Assault Allegations

It's unclear how the music streaming service's new policy on “hate content and hateful conduct" will affect other artists' music.

Spotify has removed alleged serial sexual harasser R. Kelly’s music from its promoted playlists and recommendations as of Thursday, citing a new policy on “hate content and hateful conduct.”

“We are removing R. Kelly’s music from all Spotify owned and operated playlists and algorithmic recommendations such as Discover Weekly,” the music streaming service said, according to Billboard magazine.

“His music will still be available on the service, but Spotify will not actively promote it,” the company added. “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. 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.”

As of Thursday morning, users can still find the singer’s music, but Kelly’s music no longer comes up on the various playlists created by Spotify, or through the site’s algorithm, which recommends music to users based on their individual preferences.

The singer has faced sexual misconduct accusations from more than two dozen women, including rape, child pornography and allegedly running a “sex cult.”

The allegations have emerged over many years but have gained more attention in recent months due to the Me Too movement. Kelly has yet to face substantive action in response to the claims, which have come mostly from women of color.

In April, prominent figures in the Me Too and Time’s Up movements launched a campaign to “Mute R. Kelly,” calling on companies and organizations to cut ties with the singer and urging people to stand with “Our Fellow Women of Color.”

Kelly, who has repeatedly denied the allegations, suggested on April 30 that the claims against him amounted to “lynching.”

“R. Kelly’s music is a part of American and African-American culture that should never ― and will never ― be silenced,” the statement from his representatives said. “Since America was born, black men and women have been lynched for having sex or for being accused of it.”

Spotify did not immediately return repeated requests for comment on whether the new hate policy would affect other artists’ music, but it appears the service will be deciding on a case-by-case basis.

A Spotify representative told The New York Times that the site has also stopped promoting music from rapper XXXTentacion, who has faced repeated allegations of domestic violence involving his ex-girlfriend, including beating her when she was pregnant with his child.

In response, the rapper’s representatives sent the Times a list of other artists who have faced misconduct allegations or who have other characteristics that might qualify as hateful.

In a statement to reporters, Kelly’s team similarly responded to Spotify’s move by arguing that the company “promotes numerous other artists who are convicted felons, others who have been arrested on charges of domestic violence and artists who sing lyrics that are violent and anti-women in nature.”

The singer’s representatives also accused Spotify of “bowing to social-media fads and picking sides in a fame-seeking dispute over matters that have nothing to do with serving customers” and said that Kelly “is innocent of the false and hurtful accusations in the ongoing smear campaign against him.”

In its own statement, Spotify said that it had developed the policy with the help of advocacy organizations. These included the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Anti-Defamation League, Color Of Change, Showing Up for Racial Justice, GLAAD, Muslim Advocates and the International Network Against Cyber Hate.

According to the policy, the site will implement several systems “to catch potentially hateful content and evaluate it,” such as implementing “content monitoring technology” called Spotify AudioWatch. It will also consult with the advocacy groups and encourage users to flag potential violations.

This story has been updated with statements from Kelly and XXXTentacion.

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