This article was originally published in German.
The online music service SoundCloud is a hotbed for far-right music. With just a few clicks, bands and recordings that are banned in Germany can easily be found, according to research by Belltower.News. The tracks incite hatred against migrants and Jews, glorify National Socialism or celebrate right-wing terrorists. Songs by several international neo-Nazi bands are also hosted on the platform, such as Skrewdriver or groups from the Blood & Honour network. Some songs already have over 100,000 listens and have been on SoundCloud for years. Profile photos of users show swastikas, Reich flags and SS runes. Users name themselves after National Socialists like Rudolf Hess or Oskar Dirlewanger.
SoundCloud was founded in Stockholm in 2007 as a streaming platform for producers to share their latest compositions with fans and other artists. The online company quickly moved to Berlin, where its headquarters are still located today. According to SoundCloud, the company now has 425 employees and offers a platform for more than 250 million tracks from 30 million artists and content creators from 190 different countries – predominantly from the electronic music scene. SoundCloud describes itself as the “world’s largest music and audio platform”. The company views itself as a progressive: its logo is currently decorated with a rainbow, along with the statement that it supports LGBTIQ* communities. But at the same time, SoundCloud provides a platform for neo-Nazi bands.
In Germany, only two far-right bands have been outright banned so far: Landser and Race War. According to court rulings, both are considered criminal associations and are not allowed to perform or release music. However, both can still be found on SoundCloud until this day. The bands themselves don’t have official profiles. Their music is uploaded by fans instead. A song by Race War, for example, has been on the platform for six years. Other tracks were uploaded only a few weeks ago. For the most part, only individual songs by these bands can be found on SoundCloud. But in some cases there are also complete albums including artwork, such as Landser’s 1995 debut “Republik der Strolche”.
On the album are tracks such as “Klan Song”, “Africa Song” and “Ian Stuart” – a memorial song for the frontman of the neo-Nazi band Skrewdriver and Blood & Honour founder Ian Stuart Donaldson. In one verse, the Landser sings: “You wrote our anthem ‘White Power’ / And demanded freedom for Hess / You sang of our soldiers’ fight / Against the red plague”. The chorus of “Africa Song” goes: “Africa for monkeys, Europe for whites, stick the monkeys in a toilet and flush them away like shit.” The album was recorded in Sweden because of the explicit, criminally relevant nature of the lyrics and distributed by the Danish label NS Records. The CDs were sent to Germany by post after release or had to be smuggled across the border. One band member was arrested in 1996 with 2000 CDs. The album was placed on a restricted index for music in Germany in September 1996. But fans can still listen undisturbed to the far-right album on SoundCloud to this day.
Landser and Race War are by no means exceptions. From the Blood & Honour network, for example, songs by the British band Brutal Attack are also on the platform. The search term “Blood & Honour”, which is also a song by the band Skrewdriver, has more than 500 results on SoundCloud – most of them clearly related to right-wing extremism. The militant neo-Nazi network Blood & Honour has been banned in Germany since 2001.
Music by the most prominent bands in the far-right rock scene is also available on SoundCloud, from Die Lunikoff Verschwörung and Erschiessungskommando to Kategorie C, Oidoxie, Sturmwehr and Nordfront. The bands are not banned in Germany, but their lyrics are often just as extreme as those of Landser and Race War. In addition, SoundCloud for example also hosts content such as an episode of “National Revolutionary Radio” by the neo-Nazi party Der III. Weg (The Third Path), which has been on SoundCloud for two years and has been listened to more than 8,000 times. In the episode, the neo-Nazi party talks to ex-Landser singer and Lunikoff frontman Michael Regener.
The Austrian Nazi rapper Mr. Bond, who parodies pop songs with far-right lyrics, is also on the SoundCloud. In January 2021, the anonymous rapper was arrested in Carinthia in southern Austria and is still in custody, according to information obtained by Belltower.News. A cover version of Bonnie Tyler entitled “Holding Out For A Tarrant”, dedicated to the right-wing Christchurch terrorist, who murdered 51 people and injured 40 others in two New Zealand mosques in 2019, has also been uploaded by a user to SoundCloud.
Mr. Bond also inspired the far-right Halle shooter, who played his song Powerlevel during his attack on a synagogue and a kebab shop in 2019. In the song, Mr. Bond raps “rep the fash, gotta rep the fash” and “master race, antithesis to the Jew”. In the summer of 2020, the Halle shooter testified in court that the Mr. Bond track was intended as a “commentary on the attack”. This track is also on SoundCloud. Other Mr. Bond tracks on the platform include “Mass N******” (uncensored on SoundCloud), “Concentration Camp” and “The Mosque Is On Fire”.
Glorification of National Socialism in particular is rampant on SoundCloud. At least 32 SoundCloud users have named themselves after Hitler’s deputy Rudolf Hess, some of them showing the Nazi Reichsminister in their profile photos, others swastikas, skulls or SS officers instead. The search term “Horst Wessel Lied”, an anthem of the Nazi party, has almost 160 results, many with swastika cover art. One version of the song was uploaded by the user “Jew Hunter”. The “Horst Wessel Song” has been banned in Germany since 1945. Playlists of Wehrmacht music from the Second World War are also easy to find on the platform, some songs have already been listened to almost 90,000 times.
Our research clearly shows that SoundCloud has a problem with right-wing extremism. The platform functions as a lawless space for the neo-Nazi scene, where banned bands, restricted or censored albums, Holocaust relativisation and Nazi glorification have free rein. This is mainly due to a lax moderation policy. Individual cases of hate speech and illegal content can be reported by users themselves. SoundCloud writes on their website: “While we encourage everyone to share their opinions and beliefs, it is not acceptable to use SoundCloud to share illegal material, or content related to extremist ideologies.” But the report function is cumbersome in practice. Users are first redirected to a FAQ page where they have to open a new contact window and finally also type in a description of the problem. A Sisyphean task in view of the large number of far-right songs, bands and users.
SoundCloud’s algorithms pose another problem. The suggestion function actively helps users looking for far-right music. For example, when entering “Horst” as a search term, the first song suggested will be “Horst Wessel Lied”. With the help of the recommendation function, similar far-right tracks are also suggested to users. If you listen to the Race War song “They Were Heroes”, for instance, the next songs recommended are “Night Trains” by Skrewdriver, a song by the neo-Nazi hardcore band Blue Eyed Devils and the Landser song “Hey Jew”. The cover image for “Hey Jew” is an antisemitic caricature from the Nazi era and the song is also tagged with the hashtag #Antizionist and has the following description: “Israel sucks ! Jews steal land and money, it’s a typical Jew behaviour.” The song has been on SoundCloud for nine years and has been listened to more than 12,000 times.