Breaking the Filter: Spotify’s Struggle to Censor Explicit Lyrics

Ads

Despite its efforts, Spotify’s content filter still fails to prevent songs with explicit and sexual lyrics from being heard by young listeners. This issue persists even for users who have enabled explicit content filtering on their accounts. Popular artists such as Olivia Rodrigo, Eminem, and others continue to have their songs with obscene lyrics displayed on Spotify, even when playing the “radio friendly” versions. The BBC discovered that this problem affects a significant number of popular songs by musicians like Lil Nas X, Dua Lipa, Drake, and The Weeknd. Although Spotify did not provide a comment regarding this issue, the corporation is reportedly aware of the problem and working towards a resolution.

In response to the demands of concerned parents, Spotify implemented a system in 2018 to manage explicit material. Tracks with explicit lyrics are now tagged with an ‘E’, and clean versions are made available. Users also have the option to disable explicit material in their settings if they prefer not to hear profanity. However, it should be noted that many of these altered versions still contain identical lyrics in Spotify’s database, allowing users to read the explicit language when perusing the lyrics.

Unfortunately, explicit lyrics are present in almost a third of the top 50 songs on Spotify UK. Even when playing the clean versions, half of these songs display the obscene lyrics. This poses an issue, especially when some of the impacted songs are included on child-friendly playlists or featured in the soundtracks of children’s films. The BBC specifically mentioned songs like Dua Lipa’s “IDGAF,” Olivia Rodrigo’s “Not a Good Choice, Is It?,” Drake’s “Nice for What” and The Weeknd’s “Starboy,” Kanye West’s “Gold Digger,” Eminem’s “Godzilla” ft. Juice Wrld, Travis Scott’s “Goosebumps,” and Megan Thee Stallion’s “Hot Girl Summer” ft. Nicki Minaj and Ty Dolla $ign.

After being alerted by the BBC, Spotify took action by deleting explicit lyrics from some of the identified tracks. However, it was discovered that despite the restricted music, desktop and laptop users could still view the explicit lyrics by clicking on the track titles in search results or artist profiles. This loophole needs to be addressed to ensure an effective content filtering system.

With over 500 million users, Spotify is the dominant player in the music streaming industry. This massive user base raises concerns, especially for parents like James Roach, a father of two and a writer for the parenting website Music Football Fatherhood. Roach emphasizes that as a parent, issues like explicit lyrics become more apparent when their child reaches an age where they can comprehend and make sense of words and language. He shares his own experience of having an eight-year-old child who has just started showing interest in music and can now read well.

Children often want to sing along and emulate their favorite musicians, making it necessary for parents to understand the meaning behind the lyrics. Roach acknowledges that while not all lyrics are crystal clear, the internet and similar platforms are used to search for their meaning. This active search for lyrics makes it more frustrating for parents when explicit content slips through the filters. Roach also speculates that some users may be lazy and reuse the same lyrics for both the explicit and clean versions, highlighting the need for more robust processes at Spotify headquarters.

One aspect that complicates matters is the involvement of a company called Musixmatch, which provides a platform for users to edit, translate, and add lyrics to songs. Musixmatch claims to have the world’s largest collection of song lyrics, which is utilized by millions of people to access instant time-synced lyrics. Music streamers like Spotify take advantage of this database. However, despite repeated requests for comment, Musixmatch has remained silent, leaving questions about their role in the accuracy and appropriateness of lyrics on Spotify.

Unlike movies and certain TV streaming services, there is currently no age rating system in place for music on platforms like Spotify. This absence of a rating system makes it challenging for parents to flag potentially unsuitable material for their children. As Spotify continues to be the leading music streaming service, it is crucial for the company to address these content filtering issues and prioritize the protection of young listeners from explicit and inappropriate lyrics.