Google, Spotify, & Deezer Take On Hate-Speech In Music

August 18, 2017 - Written By Daniel Golightly

There’s an ever-growing list of companies taking a stance against hate-speech and now the fight is being brought to the digital music industry as well. Among those, three providers, in particular, have opted to take a hard-line approach to the issue – Google, Spotify, and Deezer. It isn’t currently known exactly what will get a band, musician, or song removed from the site, but the initial removals are being based on a list created by the anti-discrimination organization, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).

The SPLC’s list was initially created as a way to get Apple to take a stand against racism and hate within its iTunes platform. That happened way back in 2014. However, Spotify took notice after being flagged by Digital Music News, which showed that many bands on the list were still available on the music streaming service. It has since started to remove bands on the list from its service as of last weekend, with the CD Baby – a digital music distributor – immediately following suit. Bands that haven’t yet been removed are still under review by the company. Google, in the meantime, has suggested that it will be joining and that any media violating its terms and policies regarding hate speech or incitements to violence will be removed. Users are encouraged to flag any such content they find on the search giant’s music streaming platform Google Play Music or on YouTube. On YouTube, flagging content is easy, as users simply need to click the flag icon on or below any given upload. To flag content on Play Music, on the other hand, requires users to utilize the in-app “help and feedback” features. Beyond those three providers, Deezer has also responded, saying that it will be removing each of the bands and musicians in the list.

One major player in the digital music space who has yet to respond to the SPLC list is Amazon – meaning many of the acts found on the SPLC’s list can still be found through the company’s Amazon Music service. Importantly, it’s also worth mentioning that freedom of speech rules do not necessarily protect against corporations since, at least in the U.S., it is intended to protect against encroachment by the federal government. So, each of these providers is well within its rights to take down offending content, if it is found that the content is in violation of the terms and conditions set forth by the companies. Given the increasingly tense atmosphere, it should come as no surprise that known or self-declared white supremacist groups are the first to undergo removal by any of these companies. That’s especially true in light of the hard stance many tech companies have been taking in opposition to hate-filled, violence-promoting rhetoric.