Some of these white supremacist artists were verified and being recommended by Spotify.
Spotify users can easily discovered white supremacist music on the platform warns a new ADL report.
Credit: Nikolas Kokovlis/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Unsuspecting techno fans searching Spotify for new music may come across an unwelcome surprise: A speech from Adolf Hitler.
A new report from the civil rights group Anti-Defamation League (ADL) uncovers dozens of white supremacist and neo-nazi bands distributing their music on the popular streaming platform Spotify.
According to the report by the ADL Center on Extremism, Spotify has “declined” to take action on this content. The ADL warned Spotify that its platform’s policies were inadequate and many of its rules were “loosely defined” back in February of this year. While the music streaming giant did update its rules after the ADL’s report, the civil rights group says “they do not appear to be strictly enforced.”
On top of the apparent problem with lackadaisical enforcement, users who want to report prohibited content can only do so on the platform’s desktop app according to the ADL. This is almost certainly a roadblock to enforcing these policies as the vast majority of Spotify’s user base listens via the company’s mobile apps.
The ADL uncovered 40 white supremacist artists on the Spotify platform. However, as ADL investigative researcher Calum Farley told the Washington Post, “there’s likely much more.” The artists ran the gamut of popularity with some being followed by thousands of the platform’s users. Some of the artists’ accounts were even verified by Spotify.
The music spanned genres, from punk to techno to metal. The songs included an array of different white supremacist references in their lyrics. The DJ who included the aforementioned Hitler speech in one of his songs, for example, has another track about the antisemitic and xenophobic Great Replacement conspiracy theory, which includes a speech from Fox News host Tucker Carlson. Photos found on his profile at the far-right social network Gab, show the artist behind the song covered in white supremacist tattoos and giving the Nazi salute.
Spotify playlists are also a big problem, according to the ADL report. One neo-nazi metal band found themselves included in a public “Black Metal Essentials” playlist that was curated by Spotify itself. ADL extremism researchers also discovered that the platform would recommend users “mix” playlists filled with white supremacist music, algorithmically curated by Spotify based on the users’ listening history.
The album and playlist cover art for these white supremacist bands don’t obscure their hateful ideologies either. The report uncovered photos depicting the neo-nazi Black Sun symbol known as the “Sonnenrad,” as well as the Iron Cross and imagery of Pepe the Frog.
Spotify previously came under fire for hosting white supremacist music. In 2017, the company removed dozens of these bands from their platform, but the wider problem remains. One major concern is that the discovery of these bands on the platform can potentially lead users to seek out more information regarding the hateful speech spouted in the lyrics, sending them down a rabbit hole of extremist content.
“Spotify still has considerable work to do in implementing its new policy,” the ADL says.
UPDATE: Sept. 23, 2022, 2:17 p.m. PDT
After this story was published, Spotify Spokesman Adam Grossberg provided the following statement to Mashable:
“Spotify takes content concerns very seriously, and we leverage a variety of algorithmic and human detection measures to ensure that all of the content on our platform is in keeping with our Platform Rules.
Our team of in-house experts regularly reviews and takes action against violative content on our platform. In fact, since January 1, 2022, we have removed more than 12,000 podcast episodes, 19,000 playlists, 160 music tracks, and nearly 20 albums for violating our hate content policy globally. Much of the content referenced by ADL was found to violate our Platform Rules and was removed from the platform.
We recognize that even with our continued innovation and investments, when it comes to moderation, there is always more work to be done. For this reason, we established the Spotify Safety Advisory Council to help ensure our policies, enforcement mechanisms, and partnerships address the needs of our community of global users, creators, and artists. We also remain open to engaging in a dialogue with organizations, including the ADL, so that we might benefit from their expertise and continue to improve the safety of our platform.”
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