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Spotify is going to ban or bury 'hateful' music or artists

It may come to be known as the R. Kelly rule.

R Kelly In Concert - Detroit, MI

Artist R. Kelly has come under heightened criticism lately over longstanding claims that he abuses young women. He has rejected the allegations of abuse. 

Getty Images

Spotify has instituted a policy that lets the music-streaming service ban or bury music or artists it judges to be "hateful," with R. Kelly the first high-profile name affected. 

On Thursday, Spotify published a new policy about hate content and hateful conduct that gives it the right to completely remove or abstain from promoting or playlisting any music that "expressly and principally promotes, advocates, or incites hatred or violence against a group or individual." 

R&B star R. Kelly, who has faced heightened criticism lately over longstanding claims he abuses young women, won't have any music included in Spotify's playlists any longer. His music will otherwise still be available on the service.

Kelly's publicist didn't immediately respond to a message seeking comment. Kelly has long rejected claims of abuse.

The policy touches on a dilemma that tech and media giants broadly are grappling with: how to act as an arbiter of values while balancing free speech versus censorship. YouTube and Facebook have struggled to walk the line -- keeping offensive content from thriving on their gigantic platforms without censoring legitimate speech. Facebook in particular long resisted the idea of "policing" values.

With its move, Spotify -- which with 75 million subscribers dominates the business of music streaming -- is planting a flag in the ground.

"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," Spotify said in a statement. "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."

On Friday, Pandora said it too would stop promoting Kelly's music. 

"Pandora's policy is to not actively promote artists with certain demonstrable behavioral, ethical or criminal issues," the company said in a statement. "We approach each of these scenarios on a case-by-case basis to ensure we address components true to Pandora's principles while not overreaching and avoiding censorship."

Spotify's Kelly decision was reported earlier by Billboard.

First published May 10 at 7:15 am PT.

Updated at 8:32 am PT:  Added Spotify's statement.

Updated on May 11 at 9:43 am PT: To include Pandora statement. 

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