Spotify says it has removed several bands identified with white supremacy, following a blog post that brought new attention to the acts.
The issue of resurgent white supremacy — and whether and to what extent internet companies should allow users who espouse such views — has drawn headlines this week in the wake of violent protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, last weekend.
In a statement provided to BuzzFeed News, the world's largest subscription music streaming service — which has over 60 million subscribers and more than 30 million songs — said it reserves the right to remove any content that violates its internal guidelines.
"Illegal content or material that favors hatred or incites violence against race, religion, sexuality or the like is not tolerated by us," a spokesperson said. "Spotify takes immediate action to remove any such material as soon as it has been brought to our attention."
The bands in question were singled out in a post on Monday on the website Digital Music News, titled "I Just Found 37 White Supremacist Hate Bands On Spotify." The post's author, Paul Resnikoff, said he identified several of the bands from a list published in 2014 by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups in the US. Others were surfaced by Spotify's own recommendation algorithm.
It's unclear how many of the bands will actually be removed from the service. In their statement, the Spotify spokesperson said many had already been booted, and that the company is "urgently reviewing" others. A review by BuzzFeed News on Thursday afternoon showed that several of the bands, including Prussian Blue, Skinfull, Dark Fury, and Broadsword, still had music available.
The process of removing offensive content from any entertainment platform is fraught and inevitably subjective. Asked how Spotify was determining which bands were in violation in this case, the spokesperson acknowledged that its removal policy is "under constant review."
"Currently, our internal review process on offensive content takes into account 1) a number of different lists, like BPjM and 2) anything additional that is in clear violation of our internal guidelines which includes content that incites hatred or violence," the spokesperson said. BPjM refers to Germany's Federal Department for Media Harmful to Young Persons.
Spotify did not respond to a question about whether it was concerned about critics who may accuse it of censoring artistic expression by the time of publication.