Fighting “hate” is all the rage these days. Facebook, Twitter, and now Spotify have all made pledges to fight “hate” on their platforms. But how does one define hate? Spotify decided that it didn’t want to tackle that difficult philosophical question itself so it outsourced the exercise to a few organizations including the Southern Poverty Laws Center (SPLC):
According to the policy, any tracks or artists identified as “hate content”—defined as music that “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”—will be either removed from Spotify altogether or suppressed in promotions and stripped out of any platform-generated playlists.
The “hateful conduct” part of the policy will take aim at musicians’ off-the-clock behavior. “When an artist or creator does something that is especially harmful or hateful,” the company explains, that will affect the company’s dealings with them. R. Kelly, who has been accused of sexually abusing underage girls, appears to be the first casualty of this policy: The singer’s music will still stream at Spotify but will no longer be promoted there.
Several advocacy groups will help Spotify identify “hate content.” Among them: the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Anti-Defamation League, and GLAAD.
Since the SPLC is involved, anything that isn’t left of communism will probably get purged.
What will the aftermath of this policy announcement look like? If other streaming services decide to follow along, we will likely see an increase in music piracy again. People aren’t going to suddenly not want to listen to music by an artist simply because the SPLC decided it was hateful. If Spotify or Apple Music won’t stream the music people want, they will stop paying for those services and find their music elsewhere. This is how things have always worked.