Spotify Reverses Controversial ‘Hateful Conduct’ Ban After Industry Backlash

R. Kelly
R. Kelly
Photo: Daniel Boczarski (Getty Images)

Spotify has backpedaled on its “hateful conduct” policy, which penalized artists on the streaming platform if they had a history of “controversies.”


The policy, which was part of a broader set of guidelines on hate speech and hateful conduct, drew immediate criticism upon its release in May for being too vague. Record label executives, like Anthony Tiffith from Top Dawg Entertainment, Kendrick Lamar’s label, expressed concern over Spotify singling out hip-hop artists for penalties.

In a statement released Friday, Spotify admitted that the policy had created confusion and concern.

“Across all genres, our role is not to regulate artists. Therefore, we are moving away from implementing a policy around artist conduct,” the statement read. “We don’t aim to play judge and jury.”

Initially, Spotify said that it would penalize artists for “hateful conduct” by removing them from Spotify’s playlists and discovery algorithms. At the time, only two artists were singled out as having violated the policy: R&B singer R. Kelly, who has faced decades of sexual abuse and sexual misconduct accusations; and rapper XXXTentacion, who has been charged with aggravated battery of a pregnant woman (his then-girlfriend).

While listeners could still access both Kelly’s and XXXTentacion’s music, Spotify vowed to stop actively promoting the artists. As the New York Times reports, court filings from April reveal that 31 percent of all listening on Spotify’s platform happens through its curated playlists.


But Spotify came under fire from women’s advocacy groups, artists’ managers and label executives for singling out Kelly and XXXTentacion. According to the Times, XXXTentacion’s rep asked why artists like Dr. Dre, Michael Jackson and Gene Simmons—all of whom had been accused of sexual and physical abuse—weren’t similarly punished. Meanwhile, Ultraviolet, a women’s advocacy group, called on Spotify to be more comprehensive and to penalize Chris Brown and Eminem under its new guidelines.

Top Dawg Entertainment threatened to remove its music from the service in light of the policy. In an interview with Billboard magazine, Tiffith, the label’s CEO, said that the move amounted to censorship and he questioned how the artists were selected.


“How come they didn’t pick out any others from any other genres or any other different cultures? There [are] so many other artists that have different things going on, and they could’ve picked anybody. But it seems to me that they’re constantly picking on hip-hop culture,” Tiffith said.

The Times notes that Spotify will likely continue its decision not to promote Kelly’s music, but as of Friday afternoon, XXXTentacion was already back on Spotify’s popular “Rap Caviar” playlist.


The streaming service will continue to enforce its policy to remove hate content, which it defines as content whose “principal purpose is to incite hatred or violence against people because of their race, religion, disability, gender identity, or sexual orientation,” but clarified that “offensive, explicit, or vulgar content” doesn’t violate its terms.

Staff writer, The Root.



As I have said to many friends, if you start limiting music because of something the artist did outside of music, no one will win. I’m not a fan of Robert Kelly but he does have some great music in his catalog. But if you ban him for his attitude and accusations about young girls, you have to ban MJ as well. If your idea is Dr Dre and Chris Brown needs to be singled out for their incidents of violence against women, what about James Brown’s alleged rape/sexual assault not to mention his myriad of charges for domestic violence?

Where do you draw the line?

Prosecute the artists, not the art. What spotify is doing and so many cosigned is equating promotion of the art with support of the artist.