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Some Fans Worry Spotify Removing R. Kelly’s Music from Playlists Is Censorship

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(Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images)

R. Kelly’s sexual abuse allegations have cost him promotional opportunities on Spotify. The music streaming service announced Thursday, May 10 that it has pulled the singer’s music from editorial and algorithmic playlists as part of a new public hate content and hateful conduct policy it’s enforcing.

“We are removing R. Kelly’s music from all Spotify owned and operated playlists and algorithmic recommendations such as Discover Weekly,” Spotify said in a statement to Billboard. “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.”

The policy describes hate content as the kind “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.

“When we are alerted to content that violates our policy, we may remove it (in consultation with rights holders) or refrain from promoting or manually programming it on our service,” it added.

Although R. Kelly has denied the allegations against them since the explosive 2017 report that he had been housing women in his homes as part of a sex cult, women have continued to come forward about his abuse. Among the allegations, women have said he controls what they wear, what they eat and when they use the bathroom. One woman said she was groomed to please him sexually.

Kelly’s team recently issued a statement tackling the accusations directly, saying it is “unjust and off-target” and an “attempted public lynching of a Black man.”

Jonathan Prince, Spotify’s VP/head of content and marketplace policy, said the company decided that in some cases, it may choose not to actively promote an artist whose actions are “egregious” and misaligned with Spotify’s values.

This is the latest hiccup for Kelly, as the #MuteRKelly campaign, which seeks to stop his music from playing, won support from big-name stars like Ava DuVernay and Shonda Rhimes among others. And while calls for the singer’s record label to drop him have not been answered, concerts have been canceled left and right.

In light of Spotify’s removal of Kelly’s music, many Twitter users have been applauding the decision.

“Kudos to Spotify for removing R. Kelly and xxxTentacion from their playlists,” a user said. “No longer actively programming problematic people is a step in the right direction for the industry.”

But others claim it’s a form of censorship.

“This is the beginning of a nasty wave of censorship,” one user said.

“As despicable as R. Kelly is, this is a worrying sign,” another posted. “Music platforms should be just that — a platform. They should not dictate what users consume. Curated playlists already have far too much influence imho and this is another step in the wrong direction.”

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