Update: On Wednesday, August 1, Spotify deleted selected episodes from its repository of Infowars podcasts, citing violations of its hate speech policy. Many episodes of the podcasts still remain available on the site.
These days, trying to track the progress of inflammatory right-wing conspiracist Alex Jones and his cult conspiracy show Infowars is a bit like playing whack-a-mole.
Facebook recently suspended Jones’s personal account, in what appeared to be a shift away from CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s permissive statements regarding Infowars and other loci of misinformation on the site.
YouTube also took a blow at the conspiracy-monger last week, removing four videos from Jones’s Infowars channel because they violated “longstanding policies against child endangerment and hate speech.” Infowars is notorious for peddling racist rhetoric and especially for propagating the false belief that the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting was a hoax.
But no sooner had Facebook and YouTube users celebrated these wins than reporters and Spotify users noticed that the audio streaming platform was continuing to host episodes of Infowars — and describing Jones as a “media analyst and seasoned radio broadcaster.”
Holy shit. Really, @Spotify?— Sleeping Giants (@slpng_giants) July 30, 2018
Alex Jones has been responsible for harassing parents of Sandy Hook children, Vegas shooting victims and threatening to kill the Special Counsel. And you’re now hosting his podcasts?? https://t.co/dAIYiNKdXP
Users also voiced concerns and spoke out about the show. One Twitter user claimed that Spotify told her if her idea submission to remove the show got at least 100 votes, the company would look into it. At press time, it had nearly 700. Some musicians whose work is hosted on Spotify also spoke out.
Hey @Spotify @spotifyartists @SpotifyCares how do I go about getting my music pulled off of your service? I can do without the extra $0.09 a year it pays me to no longer be associated in any way with destructive people like @infowars.— Chris Mezzolesta (@ChrisMezzolesta) July 30, 2018
This isn’t the first time in recent weeks that Spotify has come under fire for hosting controversial content. In May, as further information on the allegations of sexual abuse and misconduct against rapper R. Kelly came to light, the company initially hastily deployed a new “hateful content policy” and used it to temporarily stop promoting R. Kelly’s music on its curated playlists. However, it rapidly backtracked and killed the policy, claiming that its role was “not to regulate artists.”
It seems as though Infowars’ nebulous claim to be a media outlet rather than a source of fake news makes it difficult for platforms to police its content. For instance, Facebook’s decision to ban Jones’s personal account but not the Infowars Facebook account has also come under some scrutiny, highlighting the murkiness of Facebook’s rules and guidance system for “striking out” its users.
And though Spotify is currently taking the most heat for hosting Jones’s shows, it’s not alone in doing so: Infowars also appears on Apple Podcasts.
Vox has reached out to Spotify for comment.