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Is Spotify Walking Back Its Anti-Hate Policy?

Spotify will begin walking back its controversial decision to ban certain artists from playlists based on their “hateful conduct” and will “eventually restore songs” by rapper XXXTentacion, according to a report on Bloomberg. While one source close to the situation tells Variety that “nothing has been decided” on the matter, several other sources confirm the report, adding that it came about at the insistence of Troy Carter, the company’s global head of creator services and chief liaison with artists and the music industry.

Reps for Spotify and XXXTentacion’s distributor, Universal Music, declined Variety‘s request for comment.

Spotify’s policy was announced earlier this month via a vague mission statement against “hate content and hateful conduct” and a simultaneous interview with company executive Jonathan Prince stating that R. Kelly — who has been accused multiple times but not convicted of sexual misconduct against young women, including a child-pornography charge that was dismissed in 2008 — would be the first artist to be banned from the streaming giant’s playlists and other promotional efforts. The announcement met with immediate backlash from the media, artists, legal experts and even, according to sources, several senior Spotify executives. Within hours XXXTentacion, accused but not convicted of assaulting his pregnant girlfriend and other serious allegations, had been added to the list, and Texas rapper Tay-K, accused of murder, was apparently added several days later.

The policy was apparently enacted in response to a call from the Women of Color branch of the Time’s Up movement, which called upon Spotify, Apple Music, Kelly’s label RCA Records, Ticketmaster and a North Carolina venue where the singer performed earlier this month to “join us and insist on safety and dignity for women of all kinds.”

While Spotify’s highly subjective policy was met with applause in certain quarters, far more objected to its vagueness, the impracticality of policing it, Spotify’s seeming hubris in making such determinations, and especially the fact that it has thus far targeted only black males who have been accused but not convicted of serious crimes.

The report says that the service “will eventually restore songs” by XXXTentacion, and that the “company’s top executives are talking to the music industry and civil-rights activists about how and when to adjust its rules in a manner suitable to both sides.” A source told Bloomberg that there are no plans to promote Kelly’s music.

The move — which sources say was spearheaded by Jonathan Prince, who was the company’s head of PR during its public dispute with Taylor Swift over royalties in 2014 —  caused such an uproar within the company that Carter was said to be on the verge of quitting. While sources tell Bloomberg that Carter plans to stay on the basis of assurances from CEO Daniel Ek that the policy will be changed, another source tells Variety that the executive would be leaving the company at the end of the year.

Just two months ago, Spotify staged an initial public offering that valued the company at $26 billion.

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