Lyrically Challenged: Spotify’s Content Filter Falls Short in Blocking Explicit Songs

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Despite numerous attempts, Spotify’s content filter has yet to effectively prevent songs with explicit lyrics from reaching young listeners. This issue persists even after users have adjusted their settings to filter out explicit material. As a result, young followers of popular artists like Olivia Rodrigo and Eminem continue to encounter obscene lyrics while playing what is supposed to be the “radio friendly” version of songs on Spotify.

The BBC recently conducted an investigation and discovered that this problem affects a wide range of popular songs by artists such as Lil Nas X, Dua Lipa, Drake, and The Weeknd. Surprisingly, Spotify has not provided any remarks or explanations regarding this issue. However, the BBC has learned that the company is aware of the problem and is taking steps to resolve it.

Back in 2018, Spotify introduced a system to manage explicit content in response to demands from parents. This system tagged tracks with explicit lyrics using an ‘E’ label. Additionally, clean versions of songs were made available as an alternative to explicit ones, and users had the option to disable explicit material in their settings. However, it appears that many of these altered versions still contain identical lyrics in Spotify’s database, allowing users to read the explicit language if they choose to explore the lyrics.

The current situation reveals that almost a third of the top 50 songs on Spotify UK contain explicit lyrics. Even when the clean versions are played, half of those songs still display the obscene lyrics. The BBC also uncovered that some of the affected songs were included on child-friendly playlists or featured on soundtracks for children’s films, raising concerns about the exposure of young listeners to inappropriate content.

After being notified by the BBC about the issue, Spotify took action and removed explicit lyrics from a few songs. However, the BBC discovered that desktop and laptop users could still access the lyrics of explicit versions by clicking on song titles in search results or artist profiles.

Spotify currently dominates the music streaming industry with over 500 million users. James Roach, a father of two and a writer for the parenting website Music Football Fatherhood, expressed his concern about this issue. With his child now reaching an age where he can comprehend and make sense of words and language, Roach has realized the importance of ensuring that the music his child listens to is appropriate. He emphasizes the frustration of actively seeking out the meaning of explicit lyrics online and believes Spotify should have a better process in place to prevent this issue.

Roach speculates that part of the problem lies with users submitting multiple versions of song lyrics. He suspects that some users may be lazy and reuse the same lyrics for both the explicit and clean edits. Interestingly, a company called Musixmatch provides song lyrics to Spotify and other music streaming platforms. Musixmatch boasts of having “the world’s largest collection of song lyrics,” which users can edit, translate, and add to. However, the company has remained silent despite requests for comment on this matter.

Unlike movies and certain TV streaming services, there is currently no age rating system in place for music to flag potentially unsuitable material. This highlights the need for Spotify and other streaming platforms to take more responsibility in managing explicit content and safeguarding young listeners.

In conclusion, Spotify’s content filter falls short in preventing songs with explicit lyrics from reaching young listeners, even after users have filtered out explicit material. The issue persists across popular songs by various artists, and although Spotify is aware of the problem, it has not provided any official statement. With almost a third of the top 50 songs in the UK containing explicit lyrics, concerns arise about the exposure of young listeners to inappropriate content. Spotify’s reliance on altered song versions with identical lyrics in its database further perpetuates this issue. The company must take proactive measures to address this problem and protect its young user base from explicit and obscene content.