The companies were quick to state that their policies prohibit bigoted material. Spotify said it bars music that “expressly and principally” sparks hate and violence. Apple said it had “strong editorial guidelines” banning this content. YouTube, meanwhile, said there was no room for hate on its service.

None of the providers said how the hateful music reached their platforms despite those policies, however. While Spotify said it was “continuously” refining its content monitoring process, the findings come three years after multiple services pulled hate music following racist marches and violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. Clearly, any automated filtering is still limited.

This is problematic for fuelling hate, of course, but there’s also a danger that susceptible people might be lured into racist or homophobic culture. Streaming algorithms (themselves under scrutiny) might inadvertently suggest the songs to people who weren’t explicitly looking for them. These services might not be hate-free until there’s a more concerted monitoring effort that doesn’t depend on outside investigations.


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