Spotify to Add 'Advisory' Notice After Increasing Backlash Over COVID-19 Misinformation

CC BY-SA 2.0 / Thomas Trutschel / The Logo of streeming service Spotify is displayed on the screen of a smartphone on January 21, 2016 in Berlin, Germany
The Logo of streeming service Spotify is displayed on the screen of a smartphone on January 21, 2016 in Berlin, Germany - Sputnik International, 1920, 31.01.2022
The chief executive for Spotify, Daniel Ek, responded to growing backlash concerning the threat of COVID-19 misinformation on the streaming platform. Joe Rogan, whose podcast complaints have been leveled against, said he would make changes to his podcast by inviting people with differing opinions onto his show to “balance things out.”
In an open letter posted to Spotify’s website, Ek said Spotify would add a “content advisory” notice to any podcast episode that includes a discussion about COVID-19. The notice will direct listeners to a COVID-19 hub. Ek said other actions to be taken would include “publishing their long-standing platform rules,” which will be accessible to content creators and listeners.
“We will also begin testing ways to highlight our Platform Rules in our creator and publisher tools to raise awareness around what’s acceptable and help creators understand their accountability for the content they post on our platform,” said Ek.
“Based on the feedback over the last several weeks, it’s become clear to me that we have an obligation to do more to provide balance and access to widely-accepted information from the medical and scientific communities guiding us through this unprecedented time,” he continued.
Rogan posted a nearly 10-minute video to his Instagram on Sunday attempting to address the controversy surrounding information disseminated on his podcast, “The Joe Rogan Experience.” He began the video by defending two guests, Dr. Peter McCullough and Dr. Robert Malone, listing their credentials after the pair were heavily criticized for spreading COVID-19 misinformation.
“Both these people are very highly credentialed, very intelligent, very accomplished people and they have an opinion that’s different from the mainstream narrative,” he said in the video.
Rogan signed an exclusive deal with Spotify in 2020 for a reported $100 million. His podcast is the most successful in its genre on the platform, with ratings topping in the United States. The dispute over misinformation was sparked by a public letter published by 270 scientists, professors, and public health professionals who asked Spotify to develop a policy to handle health and science misinformation surrounding COVID-19. Their letter cited an episode from Rogan’s podcast that featured Malone.
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The Instagram video later saw Rogan acknowledge he had “no hard feelings toward Neil Young,” in reference to the Canadian-American singer’s public departure from Spotify over the platform’s “very damaging force via its public misinformation and lies about COVID.” Young referenced Rogan in a letter to his management and record label which has since been deleted. Other artists followed in Young’s footsteps shortly thereafter, including prominent musicians Joni Mitchell and Nils Lofgrin.
On Wednesday when Spotify began removing Young’s music, the company said it had also removed over 20,000 podcast episodes related to COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, Ek claiming in his open letter that from the “very first days of the pandemic,” Spotify had been biased toward action. Rogan’s episode with Malone is still available on Spotify.
“I don’t know what else I can do differently, other than maybe… try harder to get people with differing opinions [on the show]” claimed Rogan. “I’m not trying to be controversial. I’ve never tried to do anything with this podcast other than talk to people. I can’t believe it’s successful as it is.”
Spotify’s stock shares hit a 52-week low of $164.41 on Friday after the controversy. Thus far this year, their stock has fallen 26%.
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