What’s Going On With the Hardcore Porn Images on Spotify?

There's porn on Spotify, but the platform doesn't allow it.
Getty Images​
Getty Images

There’s a surprising amount of people who’ve tried to upload hardcore sex images on Spotify.

As of Friday, the uploads could be found by typing periods or commas into the search bar. A lot of these were short, seemingly throwaway uploads resembling podcast episodes, with images of hardcore porn as the album title. “Gay Smut Fanfictions,” for example, seemed to feature a photoshopped image of a straight male celebrity having anal sex with another man. The audio file was just a computer generated voice reading... well, gay smut. Another, an episode of some random guy’s podcast called “Outer Labia,” was more than 10 minutes of a man rant that begins with antisemitism and ends with a call for Instagram to start “cracking down” on photos that show “outer labia” (he mispronounces “labia,” somehow, multiple times). The image showed a woman’s labia. 

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"Spotify prohibits content on our platform that contains sexually explicit material.  When content that violates this standard is identified, it is removed,” a spokesperson for the platform told me in response to asking about the above. Many of the examples above, seen before emailing Spotify for comment, have been removed.

Spotify’s terms of use forbid ​​”pornography or visual depictions of genitalia or nudity presented for the purpose of sexual gratification.” The app has a setting to block explicit content playback in users’ profiles, but even with it turned on, these searches evade that filter.

A Motherboard reader contacted us about his eight year old daughter handing him her tablet one day and showing him the search results that she reached by typing “.” by accident. “I don't know what I expected, but it sure wasn't hardcore porn,” the dad said. 

Others are audio porn, people reading erotica, or otherwise making content that’s meant to sexually intrigue the listener. A lot of it is amateur and, honestly, bad—and most of it is in inactive podcasts that people started and then abandoned years ago.

Spotify is, arguably, a terrible place to try to grow your audio porn business. Strict terms of use aside, the platform pays artists next to nothing. Spotify pays artists between $.003 and $.005 per stream, meaning they have to get 250 streams before earning one dollar. Meanwhile, a site like Niteflirt, for live phone sex, takes on average 30 percent of earnings, but at least the creators set their own prices. Sites like Quinn and Dipsea work with creators to make audio porn, and there are tons of erotica producers to be found on Patreon, where listeners can pay them directly.

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Examples of porn images on Spotify

Censored by Motherboard

If you’re a legitimate audio porn creator, there’s only one compelling reason to upload your work to Spotify, where everything is free and the pay sucks ass: Visibility. Adult content that’s not pushed off mainstream platforms—like how people use Twitter to market their Onlyfans—is a good thing for creators trying to be seen by adults who aren’t necessarily looking for sexual content but might stumble into it. In the best case scenario someone sees your Gay Smut Fanfictions, finds a Patreon link in your bio, and subscribes. 

But this reasoning barely makes sense, either; because Spotify forbids sexual content, you have to tag or name your episodes cryptically, with periods or commas, so as not to get caught. This means both that people don’t find your work easily, and that a kid button-mashing on their parents’ phone is more likely to find it than a potential paying customer.

There’s plenty of erotica and sexually themed storytelling in general on Spotify, but those productions are usually more careful to keep hardcore porn out of their album art or profile pictures.  

Spotify, and audio content in general, is a wild west for creators and the people trying to moderate them. It’s a lot harder to scan through three hours of incoherent ramblings for hate speech, for example, than written text posts or images than automated systems can handle before a human steps in. Spotify’s CEO has called the platform’s moderation efforts a "very big operation."