Spotify this morning announced it is acquiring Dublin, Ireland-based content moderation technology company Kinzen, which has partnered with the streamer since 2020. The terms of the deal were not disclosed. At Spotify, Kinzen’s technology will be used to help the company better moderate podcasts and other audio using a combination of machine learning and human expertise — the latter includes analysis from local academics and journalists, the company says.
Kinzen’s mission, founded in 2017 by Áine Kerr, Mark Little and Paul Watson, focused on protecting public conversations from “dangerous misinformation and harmful content,” according to the website.
This is one area Spotify has had direct experience with due to the controversy over its top podcaster, Joe Rogan, spreading misinformation about the Covid-19 vaccine on his show, sparking a public backlash and PR nightmare for the company. At one point, 270 doctors and scientists signed an open letter to Spotify demanding that it establish misinformation policies to address the issue. The hashtag #deletespotify was trending and high-profile artists such as Neil Young and Joni Mitchell withdrew their music from the service in protest.
Spotify later review its policy around Covid-19 and misinformation in early 2022, although critics and experts argued the actual changes lagged behind making a significant impact. In June, Spotify took another step to get a better handle on the content published on its platform with the creation of a “Security Advisory Board”, whose job is to help guide Spotify’s future content moderation decisions.
Today’s announcement of the Kinzen acquisition is an indication that even that step wasn’t enough – Spotify needed to bring in content moderation expertise, it seems.
In short, Kinzen’s solutions aim to help platforms respond to content moderation issues faster in real time by leveraging a combination of technology and human expertise at scale.
Kinzen’s suite of tools includes tools that help platforms plan ahead by providing early warnings about evolving stories and trends that could later become risks of disinformation. This includes analysis of a wide range of areas such as medical misinformation, anti-Semitism, hateful content, climate misinformation, violent extremism and other dangerous misinformation across multiple markets and languages. It provides its customers with actionable insights about policy violations, which can affect audio, video, and text-based content. This cross-platform support is especially important given Spotify’s expansion into video podcasts and its desire to cater to advertisers who don’t want their brand positioned alongside toxic content.
Spotify notes that Kinzen will be particularly valuable because it will be able to analyze content in hundreds of languages and dialects, which will help the company detect emerging threats in various markets.
“We have long had an impactful and collaborative partnership with Kinzen and his exceptional team. Now, by working together as one, we can further improve our ability to detect and address malicious content, and most importantly, in a way that better reflects the local context,” said Dustee Jenkins, Spotify’s Global Head of Public Affairs, in a statement on the deal. “This investment expands Spotify’s approach to platform security and underscores how seriously we take our commitment to creating a safe and enjoyable experience for creators and users,” she added.
“The combination of expert tools and insights is the unique strength of Kinzen that we consider essential for identifying emerging abuse trends in markets and moderating potentially dangerous content at scale,” said Sarah Hoyle, Head of Trust and Safety at Spotify. “This expansion of our team, combined with the launch of our Safety Advisory Council, demonstrates the proactive approach we are taking in this important space.”