Censorship? Or doing the right thing?

May 16, 2018

Spotify made world news last week with the announcement of their new Hate Content & Hateful Conduct policy:

We love that our platform is home to so much diversity because we believe in openness, tolerance, respect, and freedom of expression, and we want to promote those values through music on our platform.

However, we do not tolerate hate content on Spotify – 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.

The Swedish streaming platform has copped some serious heat over this. Surprising to me at first, but I can also see how.

Firstly, it’s truly wonderful to see a big multinational taking a stand and not celebrating shit stains. It absolutely sickens me that Chris Brown still has a career, and that popular convicted women haters are still held on a pedestal in the entertainment business. So many companies and businesses are too scared about the bottom line to be the first to make a stand on controversial issues. (But, of course, okay to do so after others have and are pat on the back. See: American big businesses revoking their NRA discounts, but only after the first few were applauded on social media.)

It feels like a huge victory to see Spotify removing content that incites violence, and not using their promotional tools like daily mixes and RapCaviar to further the careers of these ‘hateful’ individuals. This feels like a middle finger to a system that has failed so many of us, women like my friends and me who have tried to get help for sexual assault and misconduct IRL but seen absolutely zero action. But it also brings up so many questions:

  • Is it the place of the content provider to be the censor? Is that a job for curators and media outlets (e.g. the triple js and NMEs of the world)? Or does Spotify’s features (custom daily mixes, playlists with giant followings, similar artists suggestions) almost turn the DSP into a curator as well? And how is Spotify facing heat over this, when book publisher Simon & Schuster got good press for cancelling their deal with the very racist, lesbian-hating Milo Yiannopoulos?
  • And regardless of who is doing the censorship… where do we draw the line? Do we say holding women against their will in a cult-like sex dungeon is bad (R. Kelly) but flashing your genitals to a fellow performer is okay (Louis C.K.)? Or does it depend on how outraged Twitter is?
  • It just so happens that this policy matches my political views… what happens if a different content provider swings the other way? Say if a pro-NRA eBook service decides to remove all literature around gun control? Is that okay?
  • Should we, and can we even, separate art from the artist? (I’d say no. Author-centred view, anyone?)
  • No man is an island, and most pieces of musical work are not recorded and put up by a single person. Is it fair to remove Lostprophets’ music from Spotify because of Ian Watkins’ truly atrocious crimes? Even though the rest of the band have publicly denounced him and Watkins has been sentenced to 30 odd years behind bars?
  • What about official channels of punishment? If a person (famous or otherwise) commits a hate crime, should we leave this with the authorities to convict and sentence as appropriate? Why is it up to content providers to take action?
  • When does this become trial (or Spotify censorship) by media? The #MuteRKelly campaign definitely gave this a helping hand, in the same way that Weinstein being fired from his own company was very much because of the traction that the #MeToo movement had.
  • What about reform? If an artist commits a heinous crime, serves out the sentence, grows up, learns the errors of their ways… can they never ever release music again? Is this an old school and barbaric way of thinking?

They’ve rolled out the reporting button already (check it out below) and have removed R. Kelly’s music from all their curated playlists. A slew of suggestions for other ‘hateful’ individuals have been rolling in and it’ll be interesting to see where they go from here.

As Spotify themselves noted:

These are complicated issues… We’ll make some mistakes, we’ll learn from them.

 

Screenshot_20180516-221506_Spotify

0 comments

Leave a Comment

Theme by Blogmilk + Coded by Brandi Bernoskie