Spotify has reportedly removed nearly 150 hours of antisemitic, racist and white supremacist material from its platform following a media investigation.
The streaming giant does not allow hateful content on its platform, but a Sky News investigation reportedly found “days’ worth” of listening, promoting “scientific racism, Holocaust denial and far-right antisemitic conspiracy theories”.
Much of it was buried within hours-long episodes, but in some cases there were explicit slurs in titles, descriptions and artwork.
Spotify removed the content after being alerted, but it remains online on other, unmoderated platforms, such as Google Podcasts.
Searching for the phrase “Kalergi Plan”, for example, directs users to a podcast with 76 episodes discussing the far-right antisemitic conspiracy theory which imagines that Jewish elites promote mass immigration as part of a deliberate plan to erase the white European race. One of the episodes apparently contains a monologue that ends with an explicit call for violence against Jews.
Another US-based podcast featured racist slurs and white supremacist symbols in its title, descriptions and artwork, with the host promoting various antisemitic theories, Holocaust denial and scientific racism.
Yet another series talks of the “beauty” of white supremacism and features readings of essays and books by Hitler, Goebbels and other Nazi figures.
Spotify allows users to report material that violates the platform’s guidelines, and the company is developing new technology to identify hateful material. But questions remain over what is being done currently to monitor podcast material, the large volume of which requires a mix of algorithmic and human moderation, as well as technology that can detect hate speech in audio.
Hannah Kirk, AI researcher at the Oxford Internet Institute and The Alan Turing Institute, observed numerous technological challenges, including the amount of memory needed to store long audio files, the difficulty of sifting through multiple speakers and fast-paced dialogue, and the complexity of linguistic cues in audio, such as tone, pitch of voice, awkward silences and laughter. The technology to encode these sorts of linguistic signals is not currently available.
Google podcasts, which is more of a directory than a platform, reportedly does not wish to limit what people can find and will only remove content in rare circumstances, according to what a spokesperson has previously told The New York Times.
A Spotify spokesperson told Sky News: “Spotify prohibits content on our platform which expressly and principally 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. The content in question has been removed for violating our Hate Content policy.”
Campaign Against Antisemitism has launched a new weekly podcast. New episodes of Podcast Against Antisemitism are available every Thursday and can be streamed here or downloaded wherever you get your podcasts.