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Spotify Drops Hate Conduct Policy After Artist Backlash

Just weeks after implementing a policy to make musicians who engage in hate speech and objectionable behavior less visible on its service, Spotify is reversing course on some of those rules after being targeted by complaints by artists.

The music streaming service, which, under pressure, had removed musicians R. Kelly and XXXTentacion from curated playlists because of their alleged misconduct, is rolling back the “conduct” aspect of its “hate content and conduct policy.”

In a blog post published on Friday, Spotify said that its policy was “vague” and that it does not “aim to play judge and jury.” Instead, the company said that it would move away “from implementing a policy around artist conduct.”

“Across all genres, our role is not to regulate artists,” Spotify said. “Therefore, we are moving away from implementing a policy around artist conduct.”

Spotify also reinstated XXXTentacion songs to official lists. The rapper had been charged with alleged domestic battery and witness tampering. R. Kelly, however, has not been re-added to playlists, NPR reported. Kelly has been the target of the Time’s Up and #MuteRKelly movement, due to allegations of sexual misconduct. In 2008, an Illinois jury found R. Kelly not guilty on possession of child pornography.

Earlier this week, Spotify CEO Daniel Ek signaled these changes in an interview with Recode’s Kara Swisher.

“There’s too much ambiguity in terms of how people interpreted this,” he said. “People thought that they couldn’t be on [Spotify], which of course was not the intent.”

A report by Billboard detailed how music executives, including Anthony “Top Dawg” Tiffith, CEO of Top Dawg Entertainment (Kendrick Lamar’s label), pushed back against Spotify’s policy — allegedly saying that artists like Lamar would pull their music from the service.

“I don’t think it’s right for artists to be censored, especially in our culture,” Tiffith told Billboard. “How did they just pick those [artists] out? 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.”

The hate speech prong of Spotify’s policy will continue, Spotify said in its blog post.

“Spotify does not permit content whose principal purpose is to incite hatred or violence against people because of their race, religion, disability, gender identity, or sexual orientation,” the company said. “As we’ve done before, we will remove content that violates that standard.”