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Spotify Are Finally Removing the Hate Music Clogging Up the App

"Estamos contentos de haber sido alertados de este contenido - y ya hemos eliminado muchas de las bandas identificadas".
Lauren O'Neill
London, GB

After the events of last weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia, neo-Nazism has been newly thrust to the forefront of the minds of many, despite the fact that these groups have been alive and kicking for a really long time. And though many feel as though white supremacists don't have a place in the music world, it'd be naive to think that "hate music" doesn't exist at all.

That's where a recent Spotify-related story comes in. On Wednesday, the streaming service announced that it had started to remove a significant amount of music, following a Digital Music News piece called "I Just Found 37 White Supremacist Hate Bands on Spotify." Obviously the removal is a good thing, but at the same time, there is kind of an elephant in the room: why has music that could incite racial hatred stayed on the platform until August 2017? And where goes giving such music a platform fit into respecting freedoms of speech and expression?


The acts listed in the Digital Music News article were first flagged by the Southern Poverty Law Center as "white power bands" three years ago. This begs the question as to why this wasn't seen as a priority until now (when white supremacists are making headlines). A Spotify spokesperson directed blame towards the companies who provide music to the streaming service, noting that they are "first hand responsible" for hate music making it into Spotify's catalogue, though she did note that they do not tolerate "illegal content or material that favours hatred or incites violence against race, religion, sexuality or the like".

She continued:

"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."

As I said, it's great that it's been taken down. But then the murkiness of what counts as censorship comes in. Rather than shouting that this sort of music should be illegal, taking it off a major streaming service simply works to discourage its spread. That seems a fair enough compromise. As human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell wrote a few years ago, on homophobic hate music: "Criminalizing views that are intolerant and objectionable is the slippery slope to censorship and to the closing down of open debate." So instead of reaching for the law, companies like Spotify can use moments like this to show that they'd rather not contribute to amplifying objectionable views, rather than trying to silence them outright. A new vetting process would mean that hate music doesn't slip through the cracks in future, and would also be a pro-active response to an issue that is a constant problem—not just when it's big news.

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