Lyric Slip-Up: Spotify’s Content Filter Fails to Censor Explicit Songs


Despite receiving numerous complaints from users, Spotify’s content filter continues to fail in blocking songs with explicit and sexual lyrics. This issue is particularly troubling for young fans of popular music artists like Olivia Rodrigo, Eminem, and others, as they are exposed to obscene content on the platform, even when playing the “radio friendly” versions of songs.

The BBC recently conducted an investigation and discovered that this problem is widespread across many popular songs by artists such as Lil Nas X, Dua Lipa, Drake, and The Weeknd. Shockingly, some of these songs even contain racist slurs and offensive language. Spotify has remained silent regarding this issue, but the BBC has learned that the company is aware of the problem and is actively working to resolve it.

In response to parental demands, Spotify implemented a system in 2018 to manage explicit material. Songs with explicit lyrics are now tagged with an ‘E’, and clean versions are made available as an alternative. Users also have the option to disable explicit content in their settings. However, the issue lies in the fact that many of the clean versions still contain identical lyrics to the explicit ones, meaning that anyone browsing through the lyrics can still read the explicit language.

The extent of the problem is alarming, with almost a third of the top 50 songs in Spotify UK containing explicit lyrics. Even during the playing of the clean versions, half of these songs display the obscene lyrics. This is especially concerning as some of these explicit songs were included in child-friendly playlists or on soundtracks for children’s films. The BBC provided examples of impacted songs, such as Dua Lipa’s “IDGAF” music video, Olivia Rodrigo’s “Not a Good Choice, Is It?”, and hits by Drake and The Weeknd.

After being alerted to the issue by the BBC, Spotify appeared to delete the explicit lyrics from a few different tracks. However, desktop and laptop users can still encounter explicit lyrics by clicking on the titles of songs in search results or artist profiles, even if the music itself is restricted.

With over 500 million users, Spotify is the dominant force in the music streaming industry. This widespread issue of explicit lyrics slipping through the content filter raises concerns about the platform’s ability to protect its users, particularly young listeners.

James Roach, a father of two and a writer for the parenting website Music Football Fatherhood, understands the importance of monitoring the lyrics that children are exposed to. He explains that this issue becomes more significant when children reach an age where they can comprehend and make sense of words and language. Kids want to sing along and mimic their favorite artists, and sometimes they actively seek out the meaning of explicit lyrics, making it even more frustrating for parents trying to protect them.

Roach suspects that some users may be lazily reusing the lyrics for both the explicit and clean versions of songs, raising questions about Spotify’s procedures and quality control. It is surprising to think that a platform as influential as Spotify would outsource such a critical task.

The company Musixmatch plays a significant role in providing lyrics to Spotify and other music streamers. They claim to have the world’s largest collection of song lyrics, used by millions of people to access instant time-synced lyrics. However, the company has not responded to requests for comment regarding this issue.

Unlike movies and certain TV streaming services, there is currently no age rating system in place for music. This lack of regulation makes it challenging to flag potentially unsuitable material for listeners, highlighting the need for Spotify to improve its content filtering system and protect its young users.

In conclusion, Spotify’s content filter fails to block explicit lyrics in songs, exposing young fans to obscene and inappropriate content. Despite efforts to manage explicit material, the platform still struggles to effectively tag and filter songs, leading to a significant number of clean versions containing identical explicit lyrics. This issue raises concerns about the platform’s ability to protect its users, particularly young listeners. Spotify must take prompt action to improve its content filtering system and ensure that explicit lyrics are properly flagged and removed to provide a safer listening experience for all users.

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