By Gwen Langi

The Mirror
Staff Writer

“…I was going to renew for a full paid premium membership but can’t justify spending my money on a company that opposes free speech. I am cancelling now.” – former spotify subscriber

OPINIONS

Is Spotify blocking racism or blocking our right to freedom of speech?

January 24, 2017

FEATURE: Through its vast platform, Spotify’s actions show its 100 million users how hate will never be encouraged.


It’s no secret that racism is still alive today.

Charlottesville, Virginia: White supremacists and Nazis gather in a rally, causing chaos in a clash with Antifa members.

During an interview with Times magazine, Donald Trump uses a racial slur given to Japanese people in World War II: “I mean, really, who knows how much the Japs will pay for Manhattan property these days?”

Director Pamela Taylor of Clay County Development Corporation compares Michelle Obama to an ape: “It will be so refreshing to have a classy, beautiful, dignified First Lady back in the White House. I’m tired of seeing an ape in heels.”

In fact, after Trump’s election, ThinkProgress started to track the number of hate crimes in the United States. Over 260 crimes were reported, 46% of which had some relation to Trump through “references to Trump, his election, or his policies.”

In light of these events, Spotify, a music streaming giant, has​ ​taken​ ​the​ ​initiative​ ​to censor​ ​music​ ​that​ ​promotes racism,​ ​sexism,​ ​​bigotry​​ or ​hate.

Through its vast platform, Spotify’s actions show its 100 million users how hate will never be encouraged.

The Spotify ban was influenced by a Southern Poverty Law (SPL) article listing hate-promoting bands that iTunes was associated with. Then, in 2017, Digital Music News (DMN) resurfaced this same article and used it to highlight this recurring issue with Spotify.

DMN was quick to name bands supporting hate or racism which were accessible through Spotify.

One of these bands included Skrewdriver, with its songs like “White Power.” It contained lyrics such as “Multi-racial society is a mess,” which were especially put under scrutiny.

Since DMN published its article around the time of the Charlottesville riots, Spotify was quick to block its controversial songs in hopes of avoiding social backlash.

Many Spotify subscribers were outraged by the company’s actions. Some went as far as to cancel their subscription because they felt Spotify was being repressive and restrictive.

“I was going to renew for a full paid premium membership but can’t justify spending my money on a company that opposes free speech. I am cancelling now,” @Schoenianj, a former subscriber wrote.

What some people have failed to realize is that Spotify is a private company and has the right to censor as it pleases.

Although what one might identify as “hate speech” is protected by our first amendment (freedom of speech), obscenity is not. Thus, any racial slurs promoted in music can be justifiably and legally censored.

However, some subscribers demanded that popular rap music from artists such as NWA, YG, Nipsey Hussle and Menace Clan be removed from Spotify because of the hate message their music directs towards whites and police officers.

As one subscriber stated “There are plenty of other groups that have a hate message towards whites and other races. They should go as well. Don’t be one sided. Both sides are wrong.”

But the ban was put in place because of the actions of white supremacists. Those directing hate at whites and police members had not started the rally in Charlottesville.

Others were concerned about the extent of the ban.

If Skrewdrivers’ song “White Power” was removed then it is safe to assume that Spotify is well on their way to censoring most of the rap genre since the majority of rap music has diction which may be interpreted as hate, depending on the individual.

The boundaries of the ban are unclear at the moment but Spotify did indeed put its large influence to great use.