Spotify announced Thursday that it would be removing R. Kelly music from its editorial and promotional content, as well as its algorithmic playlists in an effort to offensive content. The music of controversial rapper XXXTentacion was also removed.
In a statement, Spotify said: “We are removing R. Kelly’s music from all Spotify owned and operated playlists and algorithmic recommendations such as Discover Weekly. His music will still be available on the service, but Spotify will not actively promote it. 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.”
This immediately launched a debate of who was qualified to be banned. R. Kelly and XXXTentacion are the only two artists affected by the ban so far. Spotify’s new policy brings up difficult questions about how tech and media companies are supposed to determine our values. YouTube and Facebook have both had trouble keeping offensive content off their site while not censoring legitimate speech.
In an email to the New York Times, Aishah White, a spokeswoman for XXXTentacion said this: “I don’t have a comment, just a question. Will Spotify remove all the artists listed below from playlists?” She named 19 musicians, from Gene Simmons to Dr. Dre, who had been accused of sexual misconduct or violence.
R. Kelly has faced heightened scrutiny the last several weeks, with the launch of the #MuteRKelly movement. Though he hasn’t been dropped from RCA Records, Spotify’s move is reflective of continued distancing from the R&B singer. Via a spokesperson, Kelly spoke about Spotify’s move.
“Mr. Kelly for 30 years has sung songs about his love and passion for women,” a rep said in a statement. “He is innocent of the false and hurtful accusations in the ongoing smear campaign against him, waged by enemies seeking a payoff. He never has been convicted of a crime, nor does he have any pending criminal charges against him.”
“Spotify has the right to promote whatever music it chooses, and in this case its actions are without merit. It is acting based on false and unproven allegations. It is bowing to social-media fads and picking sides in a fame-seeking dispute over matters that have nothing to do with serving customers.”
In the meantime, Lifetime announced yesterday that it will be producing a series about allegations against Kelly and his alleged sex cult.