Spotify’s Content Filter Fails to Censor Songs: Explicit Lyrics Continue to Slip Through


Despite countless attempts, Spotify’s content filter continues to fall short in preventing songs with explicit and sexual lyrics from being heard by young listeners. Even after users have activated filters to block explicit content, children and teenagers who follow artists like Olivia Rodrigo and Eminem still encounter offensive and obscene lyrics on the popular streaming platform.

The issue was uncovered by the BBC, who found that Spotify’s filter loophole affected numerous popular songs by artists such as Lil Nas X, Dua Lipa, Drake, and The Weeknd. Shockingly, even when playing the “radio friendly” version of a song, Spotify occasionally displayed the original explicit lyrics, including racist slurs and profanity.

While Spotify remains tight-lipped about the issue, the BBC has learned that the company is aware of the problem and is working towards a solution. In response to parental concerns in 2018, Spotify implemented a system to manage explicit material, tagging songs with explicit lyrics with an ‘E’. The platform also offers clean versions of songs, and users can choose to disable explicit content in their settings. However, many altered versions of songs still have the explicit lyrics available in Spotify’s database, making it possible for anyone reading the lyrics to come across explicit language.

The current situation is alarming, with almost a third of the top 50 songs on Spotify UK containing explicit lyrics. Even while playing the clean version, half of these songs still display the offensive lyrics. Several of the affected songs were included on child-friendly playlists or soundtracks of children’s films, amplifying concerns about children being exposed to inappropriate content. Some notable examples include Dua Lipa’s “IDGAF” music video, Olivia Rodrigo’s “Not a Good Choice, Is It?”, and hits by Drake and The Weeknd.

Spotify did take action after being notified by the BBC, removing explicit lyrics from a few tracks. However, it was discovered that desktop and laptop users can still view the explicit lyrics by clicking on the song titles in search results or artist profiles, even if the music itself is restricted.

As the dominant player in the music streaming industry, with over 500 million users, Spotify has a responsibility to ensure the safety and appropriateness of its content, especially for younger listeners. This issue has raised concerns among parents like James Roach, who have children exploring music for the first time. Roach, who writes for the parenting website Music Football Fatherhood and performs music under the moniker Midlo, emphasizes that the issue only becomes apparent when children reach an age where they can comprehend lyrics and make sense of them.

Roach’s eight-year-old child recently started showing interest in music and reading lyrics, leading him to face the frustration of encountering explicit content while trying to enjoy music together. He believes that Spotify should have a robust process in place to ensure lyric accuracy, expressing surprise that the company outsources this responsibility.

One potential source of the problem lies with Musixmatch, a company that provides song lyrics to Spotify and other music streaming services. Musixmatch boasts the “world’s largest collection of song lyrics used by millions of people to get instant time-synced lyrics.” Members of Musixmatch can edit, translate, and add lyrics to songs, an activity that earns them recognition through “kudos.” However, despite multiple requests for comment, the company has remained silent on the matter.

Unlike movies and certain TV streaming services, there is no age rating system in place for music to flag potentially unsuitable material. This lack of regulation raises concerns about the exposure of young listeners to explicit and offensive content.

In conclusion, it is clear that Spotify’s content filter remains inadequate in preventing explicit lyrics from being accessed by young listeners. The issue affects numerous popular songs by various artists, even when using the “radio friendly” version. This loophole allows offensive lyrics, including racist slurs and profanity, to be seen and read by young users. Spotify is aware of the problem and is working towards a solution, but the current situation underscores the need for better content regulation and accuracy in music streaming platforms.

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