Spotify pulls racist ‘hate bands’ and their music offline

White supremacy has no place on the streaming service

Musicians classed as ‘hate bands’ have been removed from streaming service Spotify, as the company makes moves to rid the platform of white supremacist musicians and their work.

This decision comes a day after Digital Music News published a list of 37 named musicians with white supremacist, neo-Nazi output that were still on Spotify. However, it was back in 2014 that the Southern Poverty Law Centre first published a report, ‘Music, Money and Hate’, which outlined racism in music online. The study at the time found 54 neo-Nazi groups.

Paul Resnikoff of Digital Music News wrote: “In the wake of violent clashes in Charlottesville and an increasingly vocal, post-Trump white supremacy voice, the presence of white supremacy music on Spotify takes on a different light.”

In 2014, Apple responded by pulling the groups from their service immediately, however, the SPLC condemned Spotify and Amazon for their ‘slow’ response back then. It has taken two and a half years since the original report, but the racist musicians have finally been ditched.

“Illegal content or material that favours hatred or incites violence against race, religion, sexuality or the like is not tolerated by us,” a Spotify spokesperson said in a statement to Billboard. “Spotify takes immediate action to remove any such material as soon as it has been brought to our attention. We are glad to have been alerted to this content –  and have already removed many of the bands identified today, whilst urgently reviewing the remainder.”

Bands that were missed by the original SPLC list were also discovered by Spotify’s filtering algorithm, which could weed out groups catering to white power tastes. The platform is additionally looking into proactively blocking racist content being recommended onsite.

Spotify has previously taken a stand with its “I’m with the banned” initiative, shining a light on music from countries affected by Donald Trump’s travel ban.

More news has displayed how digital companies are beginning to take responsibility for the racism and dangerous activity across their platforms. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg has made a statement pledging that the social network will remove threats online.

“There is no place for hate in our community,” Zuckerberg wrote. “That’s why we’ve always taken down any post that promotes or celebrates hate crimes or acts of terrorism – including what happened in Charlottesville. With the potential for more rallies, we’re watching the situation closely and will take down threats of physical harm.”

Elsewhere, the repugnant neo-Nazi site the Daily Stormer, which had a hand in organising the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, was hacked by Anonymous earlier this week. Since then though, it has reappeared on the Dark Web, and now has a Russian domain. Earlier in the week, Reddit removed its Physical Removal sub-Reddit due to its alt-right content.

The responsibility of streaming services, internet providers and social networks to eradicate racism and hate speech grows ever more in the wake of events like Charlottesville. They must navigate determining what can lawfully be removed, and what’s (sometimes ludicrously) protected under ‘free speech’. There’s also work that must be put into decoding more veiled language and slang used by hate groups, and cleaning up what’s been going on for a long time.

Read a recent unpacking of the public reactions to the Charlottesville attack here.