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YouTube Removes R. Kelly’s Channels, But Still Offers His Songs

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(Bloomberg) -- YouTube 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 on Tuesday banned two channels linked to the singer, according to a memo from YouTube’s head of legal, Nicole Alston. Those 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 offer Kelly’s catalog on its audio streaming service, YouTube Music.

“Egregious actions committed by R. Kelly warrant penalties beyond standard enforcement measures due to a potential to cause widespread harm,” Alston wrote in her memo. “Ultimately we are taking this action to protect our users similar to 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 linked to R. Kelly in accordance with our creator responsibility guidelines,” a YouTube spokesperson said in a statement.

In September, R. Kelly was convicted of nine counts by a federal jury in New York, including racketeering, sex trafficking and the sexual exploitation of a child. Deleting a channel for a person’s behavior in the real world 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 behavior off the platform. Creators have faced punishment if they do anything that could “cause malicious harm to others” or participating in abuse or violence.

YouTube said it removed channels in 2018 and 2019 on similar grounds, 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 said it would stop promoting music from artists who engaged in hateful behavior and misconduct. It started by scrubbing R. Kelly and rapper XXXTentacion from its playlists, though users could still listen to those artists by searching for songs.

Industry leaders and artists criticized the company in private, claiming it was unfairly punishing individual artists. Playlists are one of the most common ways for users to find music. Spotify reversed the policy after just a month.

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