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YouTube deletes two official R Kelly channels

By | Published on Wednesday 6 October 2021

R Kelly

YouTube has removed two R Kelly channels – his official channel and his Vevo channel – from its platform. This follows last week’s guilty verdict in which a jury in New York concluded that the star built and led a criminal enterprise designed to allow him to sexually and physical abuse young people, including minors.

During Kelly’s headline-grabbing trial, jurors heard testimonies from nine women and two men who had been abused by the star. Most of the women had been lured into Kelly’s inner circle, moving into his home where he then controlled pretty much every aspect of their lives, punishing them if they ever broke his rules.

Those punishments were sometimes physical or involved humiliation. One of the male victims explained how he was instructed to have sex with different women in Kelly’s entourage in order to punish them, with the musician directing and filming the encounters.

The prosecution also successfully argued that beyond the abuse itself, Kelly had built a sophisticated system to allow him to exploit his fame in order to groom and then abuse young people, with most of his victims still in their mid-teens when they first met the star.

Beyond New York, Kelly faces similar charges in other US states, which will result in additional trials, including in his home town of Chicago. For his part, Kelly continues to deny all the charges against him, and says he plans to appeal last week’s ruling.

Rumours and allegations about Kelly had circulated for decades, though the only time those allegations resulted in criminal charges prior to 2019 – in 2008 – he was acquitted. New criminal investigations were then launched in 2019 following the screening of the ‘Surviving R Kelly’ documentary.

Those investigations – and especially last week’s guilty verdict – have sparked new debate regarding to what extent the wider music industry was complicit in allowing Kelly to commit his crimes. And also whether Kelly’s music should continue to be available to stream, generating new income for the star.

Of course, there has always been much debate regarding to what extent the music and media industries – and indeed music fans – should continue to engage with the music of artists who are accused – or certainly convicted – of violent and abusive crimes.

Though, in the physical era, where exploiting catalogue required active effort on the part of labels, the record industry could quietly and passively boycott shamed artists by just not making that effort. With digital, where the entire catalogue is always available, a boycott requires actively removing music from the digital platforms.

YouTube is not removing R Kelly’s music from the catalogue of its streaming service, it should be noted. But the specific R Kelly channels on its main platform have been deleted.

A spokesperson said yesterday: “We can confirm that we have terminated two channels linked to R Kelly in accordance with our creator responsibility guidelines”.

Meanwhile, the Google company’s Head Of Legal, Nicole Alston, said in a memo: “Egregious actions committed by R Kelly warrant penalties beyond standard enforcement measures due to a potential to cause widespread harm. Ultimately we are taking this action to protect our users similar to other platforms”.

Bloomberg notes that – while YouTube channels are usually only deleted because of bad conduct by creators on the platform itself – “deleting a channel for a person’s behaviour in the real world is unusual but not unprecedented”.

It adds: “The video site introduced a policy in 2018 to penalise creators for behaviour off the platform. Creators have faced punishment if they do anything that could ’cause malicious harm to others’ or participating in abuse or violence”.

That policy also led to the deletion of the channel of Austin Jones, the musician and YouTuber who was jailed in 2019 after pleading guilty to a child pornography charge.