Several Spotify playlist curators complain that the streaming music company is not addressing the ongoing issue of playlist abuse, which sees bad actors reporting playlists that have gained a following to give their own playlists better visibility. Currently, playlists created by Spotify users can be registered in the app for various reasons — like sexual, violent, dangerous, deceptive.
Or hateful content, among other things. When a report is submitted, the playlist in question will immediately remove its metadata, including its title, description, and custom image. There is no internal review process that verifies the report is legitimate before the metadata is removed. Bad actors have learned how to abuse this system to give themselves an advantage. If they see a rival playlist has more users than their own, they will report their competitors in hopes of giving their playlist a more prominent ranking in search results.
According to the curators affected by this problem, there is no limit to the number of reports these bad actors can submit. The curators complain that their playlists are being reported daily and often multiple times per day. The problem is not new. Users have been complaining about playlist abuse for years. A thread on Spotify’s community forum about this problem is now some 30 pages deep, in fact, and has accumulated over 330 votes. Victims of this type of harassment have also repeatedly posted to social media about Spotify’s broken system to raise awareness of the problem more publicly.
For example, one curator last year noted their playlist had been reported over 2,000 times and said they were getting a new email about the reports nearly every minute. That’s a common problem and one that seems to indicate bad actors are leveraging bots to submit their information. Many curators say they’ve repeatedly reached out to Spotify for help with this issue and were given no assistance.
Curators can only reply to the report emails from Spotify to appeal the takedown, but they don’t always receive a response. When they ask Spotify for help with this issue, the company only says it’s working on a solution.
While Spotify may suspend the account that abused the system when a report is deemed false, the bad actors simply create new accounts to continue the abuse. Curators on Spotify’s community forums suggested that an easy fix to the bot-driven abuse would be to restrict accounts from being able to report playlists until their accounts had accumulated 10 hours of streaming music or podcasts.
This could help to ensure they were a natural person before they gained permission to report abuse. One curator, who maintains hundreds of playlists, said the problem had gotten so bad that they created an iOS app to continually monitor their playlists for this sort of abuse and reinstate any metadata once a takedown was detected. Another has written code to watch for report emails and uses the Spotify API to automatically fix their metadata after the false reports. But not all curators can build an app or script of their own to deal with this situation.