Seen from one perspective, the industry-defining streaming music service is a golden beacon, a bright light piercing the gloom of a profit-hungry, dangerously amoral industry, thanks to its renewed commitment to ethical business practices. For example, the company says, violence against children and sexual violence are beyond the pale.
As with the infamously ambiguous photo of the dress that threatened to crash the internet in simpler times! Secondly, although neither R. Kelly nor XXXTentacion has been convicted of a violent crime, both of them have long and ongoing legal entanglements spurred by multiple credible allegations of appalling behavior.
In , Kelly was the alleged subject—and creator—of an infamous sex tape that purported to show him having sex with, and urinating on, an underage girl. And XXXTentacion, who spent his seventeenth year in a youth detention center for gun possession, is currently facing multiple charges related to assault with a deadly weapon, domestic violence, and other serious allegations. Furthermore, in an era when our government seems less and less likely to protect its most vulnerable citizens from violence, it makes sense to use market power, such as boycotting and blackouts, to censure unconscionable behavior.
If our elected representatives are no longer beholden to taxpayers, the logic goes, at least our commercial institutions are still beholden to their paying customers.
Or white-and-gold, for that matter. To begin with, do we really want Spotify making these kinds of decisions for us? The company currently supplies music to million monthly users, nearly half of whom pay for the privilege of accessing its catalog of tens of millions of songs on demand.
Whatever its good intentions, this is a massively powerful and influential company, and we should be very wary when it uses that power selectively to remove individual songs and artists from its catalog.
For four hundred years, the Catholic Church would regularly publish its Index Librorum, a catalog of prohibited books that was enforced under threat of excommunication, or worse.
At the time, this was widely, although not universally, seen as a progressive policy, and a means to accomplish a variety of social benefits, including curbing domestic abuse. Today, these measures are widely seen in retrospect as a terrible mistake—a censorious overreach by autocratic pontiffs, sex-negative Victorian patriarchs, and their schoolmarmish 20th century descendants.
So although our society may be fairly consistent over time about the impermissibility of immoral behavior and sexual violence, we tend to have very different ideas about its definition, and about appropriate measures to stop it, from era to era. Cheat Sheet A speedy, smart summary of all the news you need to know and nothing you don't.
You are now subscribed to the Daily Digest and Cheat Sheet. We will not share your email with anyone for any reason. In an era where the BlackLivesMatter movement rivals MeToo in its scope and ambitions, and where the public spotlight has justifiably been focused on the systematic silencing of black voices from the public sphere, this unequal treatment is problematic, to say the least. About half of all new music streamed on the service comes from playlists such as these, which means that exclusion can be a career-killing proposition for top-tier artists.
When one company wields as much power as Spotify does and as Walmart and independent promoters used to , exclusion from the market—even in in the name of morality—becomes an instrument of power and corruption. The furor over Spotify, R. The problem is fundamental to the internet, and to its increasingly central and all-encompassing role in our cultures and societies. These new digital intermediaries are creating new niches for themselves in our information ecology, carving out bits and pieces that used to belong to legacy analog and brick-and-mortar institutions, but at a much larger scale and with the power of data, algorithms and AI behind them.
Even 25 years after the invention of the web browser, we have no idea what the appropriate role of the internet is in our lives, and what kinds of constraints we should put on their ability to sift, sort and reorganize the information that flows between us, the companies that serve us, and the institutions we belong to. In other words, I was wrong: The whole damned internet is TheDress.