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Is Big Brother Coming to Music Streaming? Spotify Buys Moderation Firm Kinzen

Spotify has acquired moderation firm, Kinzen, and we’re already starting to wonder how tight the leash will become.

Spotify Buys Kinzen

#trustandsafety is going to be a big topic online going forward and how that translates into a form of censorship is up for debate. Spotify took it on the chin during the pandemic because of information presented by Joe Rogan that was deemed to be “disinformation” and it would appear that the streaming giant has decided to “censor” what users can see, read, or listen to on its platform.

The audio streaming platform has acquired Dublin-based Kinzen, a content moderation tech firm it has been working with since 2020. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Founded in 2017, Kinzen has grown from moderating election-related content to “targeting misinformation, disinformation and hate speech” online.

Kinzen is rather explicit about it role; it seeks to “identify, detect and prioritize policy violations in audio, video and text content.”

How does Kinzen define harmful content?

Dangerous misinformation: false, misleading or manipulated information with the potential to create real-world harm or interfere with elections or other civic processes, as well as coordinated disinformation campaigns designed to manipulate public conversations, undermine the democratic process, defraud citizens or threaten their health, security or environment.

Hateful content: promoting or inciting violence, hatred or discrimination against individuals and groups based on race, ethnicity, nationality or national origin, gender or sex, disability or serious disease, religious affiliation, sexual orientation. It includes mocking and promoting hate crimes.

Violent content: implicit or explicit statements inciting, admitting intent to commit, praising or glorifying violence against individuals or groups.

Violent extremism and dangerous movements: an individual or a group who justify the use of violence, advocate for others to use violence or spread conspiracy theories and hateful ideologies in order to radically change the nature of government, religion or society.

The AI scans text, video, and audio content in 28 languages and dialects and provides instantaneous alerts to the host enabling them to make decisions about blocking content or users much more quickly.

Spotify’s decision to acquire Kinzen raises some question about how the platform will moderate what it deems to be “harmful content” and it begs the question — who decides what that is?

Our podcast is available on Spotify and does that mean that the platform will now censor what we broadcast? We don’t allow profanity or hateful content on our podcasts but when conversations turn to political events or offer commentary on specific topics in the mainstream media that are relevant to our broader discussion — will Spotify flag our program and block it?

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Will the moderation software censor lyrics or even remove songs that are deemed to be “hateful content?”

Are adults no longer capable of deciding for themselves what is offensive and listening to something else? Or do we require Big Brother to sanitize what we see and listen to?

It will be interesting to see how this plays out but this feels like another reason to avoid Spotify and stick with TIDAL and Qobuz.

5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Michael

    October 6, 2022 at 4:37 pm

    > “Are adults no longer capable of deciding for themselves what is offensive…”

    I’d say many are not, and some voices have become outrageously offensive. And invoking “big brother” seems to me a cheap way to brand efforts to reign in disinformation distributed by Putin’s bots or hate and violence-mongering by talking heads some kind of protection of free speech.

    I’d say Spotify actually has an obligation to monitor their platform. Geez, Ian, you even moderate these comments.

    • Ian White

      October 6, 2022 at 5:31 pm

      Michael,

      I’m going to disagree with you on a few fronts.

      Spotify already does monitor their platform. But this takes it to another level that is going to include using the software to scan text, lyrics, and video content for anything that the AI deems to be “hateful content” and flag it almost immediately.

      I think there are offensive voices on both sides of the aisle or does moderation only apply to those that we disagree with? The “Putin” comment is laughable considering we actually took a stance from the opening days of the war and even launched a fundraising campaign for Ukranian refugee organizations. But please… call us Putin bots.

      Reasonable people will agree that you shouldn’t call someone a “dirty F@&&#& Jew Zionist” (a comment that I’ve received many times) online and expect that comment to last very long. I won’t tolerate anti-LGBTQ comments because they are morally wrong and the same applies to sexist or racial comments.

      But what people don’t understand about the platform Spotify acquired is that it can be abused very easily by those who might not agree with one’s social/political/cultural views.

      Do you know how many 0000s of podcasts are on Spotify? Are they going to tag anything they disagree with and just ban it?

      Yes — we do moderate these comments and often let posts through that are not in agreement with our views. That’s called civil discourse and the right to voice a different opinion.

      Best,

      Ian White

  2. ORT

    October 6, 2022 at 5:37 pm

    Spurtify has an obligation to play music for which they charge people a fee. I bet they will not “moderate” any cRap or Hippity-Hop “music” both of which are turgid with the filth of hatred.

    And now for more of the bitter pill better known as truth:

    It is as my mother taught me decades ago. Some people look every where for “hatred”, “racism”, “evil” and more.

    Except the mirror. Why? Because it is their personal Picture of Dorian Gray.

    ORT

  3. David

    October 7, 2022 at 2:37 am

    Ian,

    Thank you for posting this and making your readers aware of the potential this acquisition has to become a censor of any and all content on Spotify. This move will likely prove to be a guide for other entertainment providers to follow suit.

    I wonder if Michael and other proponents of “big brother”, those who seek “to reign in disinformation distributed by Putin’s bots”, would be alarmed if there was a threat to reign in Biden’s “bots”. And would we see an outcry from these same individuals if “big brother” came down upon their preferred news provider or pod caster or book publisher?

    David – aka an adult who is capable of deciding for himself what is offensive to himself and only to himself

  4. ORT

    October 7, 2022 at 2:48 am

    Well said, Sir David!

    ORT

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