Yandex.Music is going to introduce "new recommendations for content" designed for a "comfortable and safe environment for listeners," according to a company press release. It will be verified both using machine learning tools and manually.
At the same time, “sensitive topics” that can deliver “discomfort” to the listener will be filtered. As a result of the check, the content may be marked with age restrictions, excluded from the service's recommendation system, or deleted. Its algorithm for the company will help to form an expert council at the Scientific and Educational Laboratory of Linguistic Conflictology and Modern Communication Practices of the National Research University Higher School of Economics.
The head of the legal practice of Roskomsvoboda, Sarkis Darbinyan, in an interview with The Insider, evaluating the company's press release, said that now official censorship, which is implemented in Russia at the level of Roskomnadzor and the Register of Prohibited Information, is likely to be introduced into Yandex's advisory service:
“I'm afraid that all this will be detrimental to many artists, including those who are banned from touring. They will be banned from being placed on streaming services, or their creativity will be suppressed by algorithms that were not originally developed for this purpose at all.
In fact, this is the automation of censorship. There are big fears that many artists-foreign agents will fall under this automation, as well as many artists who are de facto banned from the Russian market, but not banned de jure. And, of course, this will affect a huge number of artists who are listed in various kinds of lists, including extremist information.
We have already seen these lists. They have musicians from the Kasta group to Shevchuk, some of whom have, in fact, already lost access to the Russian stage. And of course, how the service recommends them can be regulated by algorithms. Given that they are closed, and no one has access to them, we can only check in practice how this will work.
As a result, we can get a neural network that will feed us specific data and specific content. Therefore, naturally, this has a great impact on freedom of information and on access to the results of the work of certain artists from outside.
Thank God, as long as there is a choice, as long as there are other platforms. Even despite various restrictions, many people use the same Spotify. There are other music and podcast services that run the fairer recommendation algorithms that users are used to.”
Nino Donadze, a representative of the Yandex press service, commented to The Insider on the company's press release on the development of a content policy:
“The existence of a content policy for music streaming platforms is a common global practice. Spotify, TikTok, and Apple Music have similar policies. Prior to this, Yandex Music did not have a content policy and did not use machine learning for such purposes, so we, together with the Music Industry Association (AMI), developed recommendations for content on music services.”
At the same time, Donadze left unanswered the question of The Insider, what kind of "unethical" and "sensitive" content is referred to in the press release, and whether compositions with anti-war themes fall into this category.