In November, Spotify co-founder and CEO Daniel Ek revealed he was backing Helsing.ai, a European artificial intelligence company that develops technologies for the national security and defense sector, to the tune of 100 million euros ($113 million). This news has since sparked the ire of many social media users, including music artists and Spotify subscribers, sparking a #boycottSpotify movement due to its chief executive’s support for the military-industrial complex.
Ek’s investment follows his 2020 pledge to commit 1 billion euros ($1.2 billion) of his personal fortune — presumably, much of it built by Spotify — to deep tech projects in the world. next decade, including forays into machine learning, biotechnology, materials science, and energy. Helsing, which was founded this year and has offices in London, Munich and Berlin, designs software that reconstructs a real-time picture of an “operating environment” by organizing unstructured data from multiple sensors on vehicles and systems, such as tanks, drones or satellites, including video feeds, thermal imaging and sonar and radar frequencies. Such a tool could be invaluable for military reconnaissance by helping officers assess combat situations on the battlefield or identify critical targets, and could also prove crucial in a cyberattack scenario, as it can fire conclusions a million times faster than humans. So far it has reportedly been sold to French, British and German forces.
Helsing himself says he hopes to give an informational advantage specifically to “countries that meet the highest democratic standards” – or those with “liberal democratic values worth defending” – in order to “help protect free societies for future generations”. However, Ek’s funding of Helsing’s mission to develop and deploy weapons of war angered some Spotify users, who claimed on social media that they didn’t want their subscriber dollars to fund military battles. While talking about revenue, many also echoed recent accusations that Spotify looked down on often-struggling music artists who fuel its platform with meager revenue shares, despite the company’s booming profits. .
Today I’m proud to announce that after being a Spotify user since the beta in 2007, I canceled my account because of it, motivated by a mission to help build a successful society – which AI-powered weapons systems are certainly not one of.
— Michail / opiumhum.eth Ⓥ (@opiumhum) November 17, 2021
I just canceled my @Spotify subscription. The CEO has given 100 million euros, which he has taken from artists over the years, to a military company using artificial intelligence weapons.
If I had the power to remove my music from these platforms, I would. #boycottspotify https://t.co/W0c1C1gzWS
— Janey (@janeyjstarling) November 30, 2021
Meanwhile, many artists have called to remove their music from the platform in protest. “When music is used as a weapon, you know things are wrong. There is no music in wartime. wrote fusion producer Darren Sangita. “That’s enough – using our content to fund war is the straw that breaks the camel’s back,” wrote gothtronica artist Saint Martyn. Sameer Gupta, jazz percussionist offered a 95% discount for its catalog through Bandcamp, a major competitor to Spotify. Others offered other coupons.
#BoycottSPOTIFY now! Cancel your subscription today. Artists and music lovers should not support the military #AI industry! Register your anger at #Spotify participation in the sponsorship of arms companies. It’s so vile. Music is NOT war! Just wrong on all levels. https://t.co/5k4Wnv6zj0
— Darren Sangita (@darrensangita) November 22, 2021
Reached by email, a representative for Spotify declined to comment, but pointed to the split between Spotify and Prima Materia, which have no connection beyond co-founding Ek. (Prima Materia was also co-founded by Shakil Khan, who is an adviser to Spotify.)
A representative for Prima Materia also declined to comment.