YouTube drops two R. Kelly channels after sex trafficking conviction

YouTube has taken down two channels linked to R. Kelly after he was found guilty on all counts in a federal sex trafficking trial last week, the company said.

However, Kelly’s songs and albums will continue to be available on the YouTube Music service, and user-generated content incorporating Kelly’s music is still permitted on the main platform.

YouTube has terminated Kelly-related channels in accordance with its Creator Liability guidelines. The guidelines state that if channel owners are charged with very serious crimes, the platform can terminate their channels if the content is closely related to the crimes and if the channel owners have been convicted or have pleaded guilty.

Kelly, who has vehemently and repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, has been convicted of orchestrating a long-standing scheme to recruit underage women and girls for sexual purposes.

YouTube cited the fact that the lawsuits against Kelly, 54, a Grammy-winning R&B singer, were based on the allegation that he took advantage of his fame and power in the music industry to sexually abuse women and girls.

Kelly will no longer be able to use, own or create other YouTube channels, the platform decided. The service will remove a new channel if it is used to re-download content from a previously terminated account.

Kelly’s music can be accessed on YouTube’s major competitors, including Spotify, Apple Music, and Amazon Music.

After last week’s verdict, some on social media redoubled their efforts to push major music streaming services to remove Kelly’s discography, arguing in part that it was wrong to provide a global platform – and possible royalty income – to a convicted serial sexual predator.

Spotify, Apple and Amazon did not respond to questions about what they plan to do with Kelly’s music library and what criteria they might consider to remove all of an artist’s work.

Kelly has been dragged along by disturbing charges of sexual misconduct and sexual abuse for decades even as he climbed the Billboard charts, won Grammy Awards and entered the R&B Hall of Fame with “I Believe I Can Fly” and other hits.

But with the rise of the #MeToo movement in 2017, it started to receive more scrutiny. #MuteRKelly, a popular campaign co-founded by Oronike Odeleye and Kenyette Tisha Barnes, has worked to prevent his music from being broadcast on the radio or via streaming services.

The campaign was successful in some ways. Kelly’s music is said to have largely disappeared from the radio, and the songs that were once the mainstays of graduation ceremonies, weddings and backyard parties have faded.

YouTube’s move is “the start of the seismic paradigm shift in R. Kelly’s legacy,” Barnes said in a text Tuesday night. “It was his music that allowed him to buy responsibility.… I hope other platforms follow suit and Mute R. Kelly.”

But data from streaming platforms suggests that the appetite for his hits from the 1990s and 2000s hasn’t waned. He has nearly 5 million monthly listeners on Spotify, according to information at the top of his artist page on the app.


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