The Southern Poverty Law Center's ongoing investigation got one music retail giant to make a change, but what about the others?
Photo of Arghoslent via Metal Archives
After feeling the heat from an ongoing Southern Poverty Law investigation, the SPLC reports that Apple has begun removing music from the numerous white power bands that currently blight its service. The Change.org petition entitled “Tell Apple to Stop Selling White Power Music” only attracted 708 backers, but one assumes that Apple’s PR got the message.
Unfortunately, other services have been slower to act. As we discovered last month, nearly every major music retailer is selling or otherwise making available an astonishing amount of white power music. None of the services we investigated offer warning labels about the content they’re shilling, and several even have recommendation features that suggest other (sometimes more explicit) white power, fascist, National Socialist, or otherwise racially-motivated hate bands to unsuspecting users. We searched through Spotify, Google Play, Rhapsody, Amazon, Beats Music, Pandora, Rdio, and Grooveshark to see what exactly was out there, and the result was pretty damning. From infamous white power punks Skrewdriver to poisonous NSBM (National Socialist black metal) thugs Kristallnacht, there are plenty of bands on there for every shade of racist.
So what are they going to do about it? So far, nothing, and what's more, most of them don't technically have to do anything at all. Streaming services like Rhapsody, Beats Music, and Grooveshark pass the buck to their users, asking them to behave. Spotify does the same, saying, “Don’t engage in any activity on the Service or upload User Content, including registering and/or using a username, which is or includes material that (a) is offensive, abusive, defamatory, pornographic or obscene”—one assumes that some may deem songs like “Fascist Inculcation” offensive, though. Pandora washes its hands of all responsibility, noting in its legal disclaimers that users must understand that “you may encounter offensive, indecent or other objectionable content, including third party advertisements, when using the Pandora services. Pandora will have no liability to you for any such content.” Rdio parrots their approach, down to the “under no circumstances will Rdio be liable in any way for any user-generated content.”
Skrewdriver photo courtesy of Rex Features
Amazon and Google, the biggest (and guiltiest) companies involved, are in direct violation of their own content and conduct policies, which clearly forbid hate speech. As the SPLC notes, Amazon’s policy’s prohibited listings include, “products that promote or glorify hatred, violence, racial, sexual or religious intolerance or promote organizations with such view.” It puts the onus on sellers to do their own research before listing potentially offensive items, but promises that, “if Amazon.com determines that the content of an item is prohibited, we may summarily remove or alter it without returning any fees the listing has incurred. Amazon.com reserves the right to make judgments about whether or not content is appropriate.”
Google’s policy puts it even more bluntly, stating, “Do not distribute content that promotes hatred or violence towards groups of people based on their race or ethnic origin, religion, disability, gender, age, veteran status, or sexual orientation/gender identity.” The company leaves itself a loophole, though, stating, “Please note that when applying our policies, we may make exceptions based on artistic, educational, or documentary considerations, or when there are other substantial benefits to the public from not taking action (e.g., cultural and social commentary). These exceptions are of course especially important in the context of music; they are also especially difficult lines to draw. We reserve the right to apply our policies in our sole discretion, and we are always evolving our views on complex issues. It’s your responsibility to keep up with any changes or modifications to our policies, so please check back in.”
It’s very clear that all of these companies have smartly covered their asses in anticipation of exactly this kind of situation—the offensive content is our problem, not theirs. We reached out to both Amazon and Google for comment, but as of press time, have not heard back.