Spotify Starts Banning Neo-Nazi Bands; Google, Deezer and CD Baby Pledge to Follow Suit

Charlottesville rally flag
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Spotify has begun to remove music of a number of self-declared “white power” bands from its catalog in the wake of this past weekend’s deadly Neo-Nazi protests in Charlottesville. Google and digital music distributor CD Baby also pledged to remove music promoting hate.

Spotify came under pressure after Digital Music News reported earlier this week that the service was streaming music from a number of bands highlighted in a 2014 campaign by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). The anti-discrimination group had originally assembled a list of 54 bands, with explicitly racist or white supremacist messaging to pressure Apple to stop selling their music on iTunes.

A lot of those bands have since transitioned to streaming, and quite a few of them were, until recently, available on Spotify. The service responded to the post by stating that it had removed “many of the bands identified” by Digital Music News, and that it was in the process of reviewing other bands.

Other services seem ready to follow suit. Deezer told the publication that it would remove the artists in question as well. And a Google spokesperson told Variety that “YouTube and Google Play have clear policies that prohibit content like hate speech and incitement to commit violent acts” and that it would remove any content in violation of these policies flagged by users.

However, the company’s services also demonstrate why it’s so hard for music services to filter out Nazi rock. YouTube has long offered users the ability to easily flag uploaded content. Google Play Music makes reporting content more complicated, forcing users to instead ‘file feedback’ from within the service’s “help & feedback” menu. This may explain why the service is still streaming albums like  “18 Was Right” by Nazi rock band No Remorse, which features choice lines like “Stand up and fight / be proud to be white / Hitler was right.”

White power music also continues to be available on Amazon, which is currently streaming multiple albums of Skrewdriver, a band that the SPLC describes as the de facto founders of the hate rock movement, as well as numerous other bands from the SPLC’s list. Amazon didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

It appears that music services like Spotify, Amazon Music, and Google Play Music all get these albums from indie and DIY music distributors like CD Baby, which allow any band to submit their albums and have them distributed to a long list of music services. The company told Variety Thursday that it’s committed to take down any CDs featuring hate speech.

“We believe hate speech is particularly odious, and we try not to carry it, per our hate speech policy. CD Baby does not intentionally distribute content that promotes violence against persons of a specific race, color, religion, nationality, gender identity, or sexual orientation, and we reserve the right to refuse submissions of this nature, or to cancel submissions that fall into this category at any time,” said CD Baby CEO Tracy Maddux.

“We carry over 8 million songs that hundreds of thousands of artists self-distribute on the CD Baby platform, and it is impossible to screen every song for objectionable content,” he continued. “Our practice has been to encourage our community to let us know if there is content available on our site that violates these guidelines. Reports of hate-promoting music are taken very seriously and we are making every effort to flag and vet tracks of concern. In the event we find content in violation of these guidelines, we will take it down.”

The moves by these music services come as a number of tech companies are severing ties with right-wing extremists in the wake of Charlottesville. Apple Pay and PayPal both disabled support for a number of sites selling Neo-Nazi garb, GoDaddy and Google canceled their hosting contracts with The Daily Stormer, and OKCupid even banned a white supremacist from its dating service Thursday.

Update: 4:35pm: This post was updated to detail how users can report objectionable content from within Google Play Music.

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    1. Ann Marie says:

      Yes, to be Fair, how about deleting music The rest of us find offensive? The expletive and sex laden rap music? It’s apparently okay to pollute our kids minds with one kind of music but not another?

      • juepucta says:

        Do you not see the difference between hate speech and something that would offend prudish sensibilities? This is not pearl clutching over some swear words.

    2. Jake says:

      Are they going to ban violent rap as the right has been demanding?

    3. Ron Eschaton says:

      Let’s start by banning all copies of Blazing Saddles. Wake up sheeple!

    4. Burbank says:

      Censorship is wrong. I don’t support these Neo-Nazi’s; however, I believe in freedom of speech. Expect these music groups to successfully bring & win lawsuits against these companies.

      • Bert says:

        Free speech sure, but free speech also allows private companies to decide what content they’d like to promote and what they won’t. Nazi bands are perfectly entitled to set up their own streaming service. This isn’t censorship.

        • Burbank says:

          Google is a publicly-traded company, Spotify is thinking about going public (news in April 2017), and I’m not sure about CD Baby.

    5. Jim says:

      1. I’m surprised that there are Nazi bands on Spotify and Google.
      2. That they have waited until just now to take them down. Where they OK to play 2 weeks ago?

    6. Kaboom! says:

      I expect these companies will be banning any music from Roger Waters (ie: Pink Floyd). The man makes anti-semitic remarks continually.

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