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.