October 11, 2021

YouTube removes R. Kelly channels, but still offers his songs

(Bloomberg) – YouTube has banned R. Kelly from its video platform, taking an unusual step to distance itself from the disgraced recording artist recently convicted of sex crimes.

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The world’s largest video platform banned two channels linked to the singer on Tuesday, according to a note from YouTube legal officer Nicole Alston. These channels, R. Kelly TV and R. Kelly Vevo, are offline, giving users a message that “the account has been terminated for a violation of YouTube’s terms of service.” However, Google’s YouTube will continue to feature Kelly’s catalog on its audio streaming service, YouTube Music.

“The egregious actions committed by R. Kelly justify sanctions beyond standard enforcement measures because of the potential to cause widespread harm,” Alston wrote in his memo. “Ultimately, we take this step to protect our users in the same way we do on other platforms.” Kelly will no longer be able to use, own or create YouTube channels, she added.

“We can confirm that we have terminated two channels related to R. Kelly in accordance with our creator liability guidelines,” a YouTube spokesperson said in a statement.

In September, R. Kelly was convicted of nine counts by a federal jury in New York City, including racketeering, sex trafficking and child sexual exploitation. Deleting a channel for a person’s real-world behavior is unusual, but not unprecedented for YouTube, which strives to present itself as an open platform for a variety of creators and viewpoints. The video site introduced a policy in 2018 to penalize creators for off-platform behavior. Creators face penalties if they do anything that could “cause malicious harm to others” or participate in abuse or violence.

YouTube said it removed channels in 2018 and 2019 for similar reasons, including those of Larry Nassar, Family of Five, and Austin Jones.

The music industry revolted in 2018 when Spotify Technology SA punished artists for their behavior. The Swedish streaming giant has said it will stop promoting music by artists who engage in hateful and misconduct. It started out by deleting R. Kelly and rapper XXXTentacion from its playlists, although users could still listen to these artists by searching for songs.

Industry executives and artists have criticized the company in private, saying it unfairly punishes individual artists. Playlists are one of the most common ways for people to find music. Spotify reversed the policy after just a month.

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