Spotify says it’s removing playlists that glorify Hitler, urge gassing of Jews

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mages of user-generated far-right playlists on Spotify (screen capture: Spotify)

Music service says it prohibits content that is ‘offensive, abusive, defamatory, pornographic, threatening, or obscene’; profiles registered to Adolf Hitler remain online

By MARISSA NEWMAN 9 January 2020, 9:50 pm

Music-streaming giant Spotify on Thursday said it was removing user-generated playlists that glorify Adolf Hitler, ridicule Holocaust victims and feature hate symbols, including swastikas.

“The user-generated content in question violates our policy and is in the process of being removed. Spotify prohibits any user content that is offensive, abusive, defamatory, pornographic, threatening, or obscene,” a Spotify spokesperson said.

The dozens of playlists are created by users and don’t necessarily have anti-Semitic content beyond the title and art. But they are searchable and available across the platform for any of the service’s over 200 million subscribers worldwide.

Much of the inflammatory content spotlighted in a Times of Israel report on Wednesday had been removed as of Thursday evening, including numerous playlists that called for killing or gassing Jews, mocked Holocaust victim Anne Frank (such as “Songs to snort Anne Frank’s ashes,” and “Getting gassed with Anne Frank”) and the Auschwitz death camp (including playlist “Auschwitz Train Sing Along”), featured Holocaust denial (such as “The Holocaust was a joke”) or praise of Hitler (for example, “Hitler was right”).

The over 110 publicly viewable profiles registered on Spotify under “Adolf Hitler,” and dozens of others listed under other variations on the Nazi leader’s name, were still online. It remained unclear whether the profiles would also be suspended.

Images of user-generated far-right playlists on Spotify (screen capture: Spotify)

Earlier this week, in response to a query by The Times of Israel, Spotify said it removed hate content flagged by Germany’s Federal Department for Media Harmful to Young Persons and reviewed other complaints on a case-by-case basis. The playlists, however, had remained online.

“We take this topic very seriously. Content [artists and music] listed by the BPjM in Germany [Bundesprüfstelle für jugendgefährdende Medien/Federal Department for Media Harmful to Young Persons] is proactively removed from our service. We’re a global company, so we use the BPjM index as a global standard for these issues. Other potentially hateful or objectionable content that is flagged by users or others but not on the BPjM list is handled on a case-by-case basis,” it said in a statement.

In its policies on prohibited content, the company says: “Hate content is content that expressly and principally promotes, advocates, or incites hatred or violence against a group or individual based on characteristics, including, race, religion, gender identity, sex, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, veteran status, or disability. We do not permit hate content on Spotify. When we are alerted to content that violates this standard, we will remove it from the platform.”

The Anti-Defamation League said Wednesday it was reaching out to Spotify “to press them, as we have other platforms, to adopt and enforce effective policies to combat online hate and anti-Semitism.”

On Thursday, the Auschwitz Memorial also condemned the content, tweeting: “Spotify, Do Better.”

In 2017, Spotify removed white power and neo-Nazi bands from its service after Digital Music News identified 37 white supremacist artists readily available for streaming. That decision was announced shortly after the far-right “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, which saw hundreds of neo-Nazis shout anti-Semitic slogans. One of the protesters drove into a crowd of counter-demonstrators, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring more than two dozen others.

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