Spotify Botched ‘Hateful Conduct’ Policy That Hit R Kelly, CEO Daniel Ek Admits

“We could have done a much better job” of rolling out rules, says chief exec

Spotify CEO Daniel Elk
Via Recode / Vox Media

Spotify bungled the rollout of its new “hateful conduct” policy that led to the removal of R. Kelly songs from its promoted playlists, CEO Daniel Ek said.

Speaking at the Code Conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, California on Wednesday night, Ek said there was “too much ambiguity” in how the streaming giant communicated its new rules.

“The whole goal with this was to make sure that we didn’t have hate speech on the service,” said Ek. “We rolled this out wrong and we could have done a much better job.”

Earlier this month, Spotify stopped promoting R. Kelly’s songs after additional accusations of sexual misconduct against the singer surfaced. R. Kelly’s music was, and is, still available to stream for users who search for it manually. Rapper XXXTenaction also had his music removed from recommended playlists by Spotify, but was later reinstated.

“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,” Spotify told TheWrap in a statement on May 10.

Spotify’s decision was part of a larger policy reform targeting “hateful content” — or “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,” according to the company. The company has enlisted several civil rights groups, including the Anti-Defamation League and GLAAD, to weed out unsavory content.

Despite the pushback, the new policy is still in effect, Ek added.