Cannes Lions

H.A.N.S. - The Hateful Audio Notification Service

PHILIPP UND KEUNTJE, Hamburg / LAUT GEGEN NAZIS / 2023

Awards:

5 Shortlisted Cannes Lions
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Overview

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Credits

Overview

Background

Playlists called "Heil Hitler", songs that encourage rape or artists who call for killing homosexual people. Spotify is full of such content and does nothing against violence-inducing discrimination. Those affected can't fight back. No content reporting function exists. There is no control of the content whatsoever. Out of 100 million songs, only 160 tracks and less than 20 albums were removed in 2022. Spotify offers hatred a stage with 500 million listeners. Laut gegen Nazis, a German organization that fights hate offline and online, could not stand by while one of the biggest tech companies in the world neglects its responsibility and fails to protect its users from discrimination. So they looked for an easy way for affected users to report discriminatory content to Spotify directly from the app. A way that triggers users and media to put Spotify under pressure without a big marketing budget.

Idea

We used a loophole in Spotify's system to add a report function for hateful content. Users can send any content directly from the Spotify app to our WhatsApp bot H.A.N.S. (Hateful Audio Notification Service) via the Share function. The bot analyzes the shared links, asks questions, classifies and generates a message for Spotify. This is tweeted publicly and sent via email to various Spotify email addresses. Just as easy and convenient as a built-in report function would. To publicize the bot, we hijacked Spotify's biggest campaign. As everyone waited for the new #spotifywrapped campaign to launch, we used the hashtag to promote our not-so-positive review of the last year on Spotify. We pointed out all the hateful content we found in 2022 while promoting the solution: our WhatsApp bot H.A.N.S.

Strategy

We started by gathering data from Spotify, e.g. which songs use discriminating language, how often those songs are played, by how many people, how many people a discriminating artist or playlist reaches, etc. We used tools like Chartmetric to gather this data. By interpreting these facts, we created impactful assets that we posted while interest for the new #spotifywrapped campaign peaked in late November. We got H.A.N.S.'s number on thousands of phones by promoting it this way. Then, we gathered our own data from the content that users reported and turned it into new campaign assets. Ultimately, the campaign shifts the perception of users, press and prominent musicians that now demand that Spotify finally takes action and responsibility for its content. Using H.A.N.S.'s data, hateful content can finally be removed.

Execution

Thanks to our technical partner cake, the H.A.N.S. bot was set up quickly, and Spotify cannot shut it down or block it – as it doesn't need to use Spotify's API. Ease of use was crucial to H.A.N.S.'s success. After we hijacked the global #spotifywrapped campaign, its number was on thousands of phones. H.A.N.S. started reporting in early November 2022, and already in the first 3 months, over 5,000 content pieces were flagged. Continuous updates on the progress and the nature of the content users were reporting with H.A.N.S. kept the community motivated while also boosting public topic awareness and Laut gegen Nazis' social media reach. Fans, press and prominent German musicians supported our demand for Spotify to increase content control. The streaming giant is feeling the pressure but still hesitates. The good news is that the massive media attention drew in their biggest competitor, Apple Music, who reached out and wants to partner up. Nevertheless, H.A.N.S. is not giving up and will continue to fight against every single reported discrimination on Spotify – until the streaming giant accepts its responsibility and starts taking action.

Outcome

In the first 3 months, over 5,000 pieces of content were already reported. Continuous updates on the progress and the nature of the content users were reporting with H.A.N.S. kept the community motivated while also boosting public topic awareness (+400%) and Laut gegen Nazis' social media reach (+700%). Fans, press and prominent German musicians supported our demand for Spotify to increase content control – resulting in 24 million media impressions – without spending a single Euro on media. The streaming giant is feeling the pressure but still hesitates. The good news is that the massive media attention drew in their biggest competitor, Apple Music, who wants to partner up. Nevertheless, H.A.N.S. is not giving up and will continue to fight against every single reported discrimination on Spotify – until the streaming giant accepts its responsibility and starts taking action.

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