How Spotify Approaches Safety With Sarah Hoyle, Global Head of Trust and Safety

Spotify’s mission is to unlock the potential of human creativity by giving a million artists the opportunity to live off their art and billions of fans the opportunity to enjoy and be inspired by it. In support of that endeavor, our global teams work around the clock to ensure that the experience along the way is safe and enjoyable for creators, listeners, and advertisers. 

While there is some user-generated content on Spotify, the vast majority of listening time is spent on licensed content. Regardless of who created the content, our top priority is to allow our community to connect directly with the music, podcasts, and audiobooks they love. When we think about the safety aspect of this, it can be helpful to do so in the context of seeing a show at a performance venue.

Like a performance venue, Spotify hosts different types of shows across a variety of genres. Not every show may be suitable for all audiences or in line with everyone’s unique tastes. Just like people select which shows they want to see, Spotify provides opportunities for users to seek out and curate content that they like and that is appropriate for their preferences. For example, users can skip music tagged by creators or rights holders as “explicit” by using our content toggle. Mobile users can block artists or songs they wish to hide and exclude playlists from their taste profiles or use the “not interested” button to better control their experiences.

While Spotify strongly supports enabling creative expression and listener choice, this does not mean that anything goes. In the same way that a venue has rules to ensure that shows run smoothly and are safe, Spotify has Platform Rules to guide what’s acceptable content and behavior on our platform. Bad behavior at a concert can lead to things like backstage access being revoked or, in egregious situations, someone being kicked out of the venue. Breaking Spotify’s rules can have consequences like removal, reduced distribution, and/or demonetization. We will also remove content that violates the law and/or our Terms of Service. Creators or rights holders may also choose to remove content themselves.

Measures we continue to take around responsible content recommendations and search also play key roles in creating a safe and enjoyable experience. For example, product and engineering teams across the company work with Trust & Safety to conduct impact assessments that allow us to evaluate and better mitigate potential algorithmic harms and inequities. We’ve also been introducing search warnings and in-app messaging to users searching for suicide, self-harm, and disordered eating-related content, which link to Spotify’s Mental Health Resources page. This work is being done in partnership with experts like Ditch the Label and the Jed Foundation with the goal of connecting potentially at-risk users with trusted help resources. 

Keeping our platform safe is a challenging job and, as the landscape evolves, we’re committed to evolving along with it. Safety is a company-wide responsibility and our efforts involve ongoing coordination between engineers, product managers, data scientists, researchers, lawyers, and social impact experts, as well as the policy and enforcement experts in Trust & Safety. Many of the folks on these teams have long careers in online safety, as well as in fields like human rights, social work, academia, health care, and consulting. We have also established an internal Safety Leadership group that regularly brings executives from different departments together to help ensure awareness of safety needs and monitor progress on our efforts. 

To complement our in-house expertise, we also seek counsel and feedback from third-party experts around the world, including our Safety Advisory Council, to ensure we’re considering multiple points of view when shaping our safety approach. In 2022, we invested in the local and linguistic expertise of start-up Kinzen, now known as the Content Safety Analysis team within Spotify, which has a nuanced understanding of the global safety landscape and works proactively to deliver a safe and enjoyable experience across our content offerings. 

Click here to learn more about Spotify’s approach to safety.