But even in the world of podcasting, Google Podcasts — whose app has been downloaded more than 19 million times, according to Apptopia — stands alone among major platforms in its tolerance of hate speech and other extremist content. A recent nonexhaustive search turned up more than two dozen podcasts from white supremacists and pro-Nazi groups, offering a buffet of slurs and conspiracy theories. None of the podcasts appeared on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or Stitcher.
Google Podcasts is also one of the few remaining homes of Alex Jones, the “Infowars” broadcaster, who was banned in 2018 from Apple, Spotify and Stitcher for repeated violations of their policies on hate speech and harassment. Google, citing its own policies, terminated Mr. Jones’s YouTube account. Last year, it removed the Infowars app from the Google Play store for spreading misinformation about the coronavirus.
But Mr. Jones’s programs are still available on Google Podcasts.
Told of the white supremacist and pro-Nazi content on its platform and asked about its policy, a Google spokeswoman, Charity Mhende, compared Google Podcasts to Google Search. She said that the company did not want to “limit what people are able to find,” and that it only blocks content “in rare circumstances, largely guided by local law.”
That hands-off approach to moderation recalls the original position of social networks like Facebook and Twitter, which have become more vigilant in recent years in their attempts to rein in the spread of harmful content.