YouTube removes two R. Kelly channels, but stops before ban
A week after R. Kelly’s conviction for federal racketeering and sex trafficking, YouTube has removed two of the R&B star’s official video channels, but is not completely banning his music.
Both channels – RKellyTV and the singer’s Vevo account, which hosted his music videos – were removed on Tuesday in what Google-owned YouTube said was an enforcement of its terms of service.
“We can confirm that we have terminated two channels related to R. Kelly in accordance with our creator liability guidelines,” said Ivy Choi, spokesperson for YouTube, in a statement.
According to YouTube guidelines, it can shut down the channels of people accused of very serious offenses if they have been convicted or have pleaded guilty to crimes, and if their content is closely related to those crimes.
On Tuesday, a report in Bloomberg quoted an internal memo from Nicole Alston, YouTube’s legal officer, as saying: “The egregious actions committed by R. Kelly justify sanctions beyond standard enforcement actions due to potential for widespread harm. “
In the past, YouTube has taken down channels from creators like Austin Jones, who made popular a cappella videos, and in 2019 pleaded guilty to asking underage girls to send him sexually explicit videos.
YouTube’s stance could be the first major step a major tech platform takes to remove content from Kelly. But this is not a total ban. Kelly’s music is still permitted on YouTube through user-generated content, such as covers of her songs, and on Kelly’s “topic” page, which allows her recordings to be streamed while a static image of the cover of his album is displayed.
And Kelly’s music remains fully available on YouTube Music, a separate streaming platform that more directly competes with audio releases like Spotify and Apple Music. Google last month said there were 50 million subscribers to YouTube Music and YouTube Premium, which allows viewers to ignore ads on videos.
When asked why Kelly’s music remains available on YouTube Music and why this platform has different creator liability guidelines, a YouTube spokesperson simply replied, “Our liability guidelines. Creators are enforced for the channels linked to the creator. This is consistent with how we have applied our policies in the past. “
The answer may lie in YouTube’s historical roots as a platform for individual creators, who often operate without a corporate middleman like a record label, and thus retain more direct control over their video channels. But for most of the major recording artists, like Kelly, their labels provide their music videos to YouTube through Vevo, which is jointly owned by Google and the major labels.
In 2018, Spotify briefly instituted a policy banning the promotion of artists – including Kelly – whose personal conduct was deemed “hateful.” The policy was rescinded after objections in the music industry that it was vague and appeared to disproportionately affect artists of color.
Since then, there have been few attempts to control the content of musicians accused of serious misconduct, much to the dismay of many activists. Kelly’s music remains widely available on other major streaming platforms like Apple Music, Spotify, and Amazon Music, and has been included in hundreds of official playlists on these services. On Spotify, Kelly’s songs have recently averaged five million streams each month.