Spotify acquires AI start-up to ramp up its moderation efforts

Spotify has removed 19,000 playlists, 12,000 podcasts, 160 songs and nearly 20 albums that violated its policies since the beginning of the year. — Photography Ignatiev/Getty Images/AFP Relaxnews

Combating hateful content is one of Spotify's top priorities. But it's not always easy to identify and moderate it. To ramp up its efforts, the Swedish music streaming giant has decided to acquire the start-up Kinzen to help with this arduous task.

Spotify says that it started working with Kinzen in 2020. As such, its acquisition, for an undisclosed sum, is a continuation of the moderation work carried out by the two companies. “Now, working together as one, we’ll be able to even further improve our ability to detect and address harmful content, and importantly, in a way that better considers local context," said Dustee Jenkins, Spotify’s Global Head of Public Affairs, in a statement.

And that's what makes Kinzen so distinctive, and so attractive. This Irish start-up, founded by Aine Kerr and Mark Little, relies on a mix of human expertise and machine learning to analyze potentially dangerous and hateful content in several languages. "Our team has developed unique technology which helps editors review large volumes of content in multiple formats, including text, video, audio and images," reads the company's website

Moreover, Kinzen claims to have particular expertise in podcast moderation – skills that have certainly attracted Spotify's attention. Indeed, the Swedish music streaming giant is increasingly betting on these popular audio shows to stand out from its competitors. It began investing heavily in this industry back in 2019, buying the studio Gimlet Media for US$230 million (RM1.07bil). The group has since stepped up its acquisitions and now claims a catalog of over four million podcasts on the platform. The phenomenon is such that Hot Pod, a newsletter specializing in the world of podcasts, goes as far as to state that Spotify is no longer a music company, but a company dedicated to podcasts.

Tens of thousands of deleted items

However, the Swedish company is struggling to ensure that all the audio content hosted on its platform complies with its hate speech policy. Indeed, it has removed some 19,000 playlists, 12,000 podcast episodes, 160 songs and nearly 20 albums that violate its policy since the beginning of the year. A move that shows that Spotify "takes content concerns very seriously," as a company spokesperson told Billboard magazine.

To that end, the company announced in June the creation of a Safety Advisory Council. This group aims to help the platform "evolve its policies" around key areas such as digital security and hate content. It is composed of about 20 experts and representatives from organizations with deep knowledge in these areas.

Their mission should be made easier now that Spotify has purchased Kinzen, says Dustee Jenkins. "This investment expands Spotify’s approach to platform safety, and underscores how seriously we take our commitment to creating a safe and enjoyable experience for creators and users." – AFP Relaxnews

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