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Spotify Compared to Facebook as Streaming Service Under Fire Over Joe Rogan's Vaccine Claims

© AFP 2023 / CINDY ORDIn this photo illustration, "The Joe Rogan Experience" podcast is viewed on Spotify's mobile app on January 31, 2022 in New York City. Several artists recently removed their music from Spotify in protest of hosting Joe Rogan's podcast.
In this photo illustration, The Joe Rogan Experience podcast is viewed on Spotify's mobile app on January 31, 2022 in New York City. Several artists recently removed their music from Spotify in protest of hosting Joe Rogan's podcast. - Sputnik International, 1920, 02.02.2022
One of the world's most popular streaming services, Spotify, has faced massive backlash and even a boycott from some musicians and podcasters over the content of commentator and comedian Joe Rogan's podcast. According to critics, Rogan is spreading vaccine misinformation.
The way Spotify has responded to the controversy around one of its most popular podcasters, Joe Rogan, hasn't seemed to sit well with a lot of people, who are now blaming the streaming service for implementing the "Facebook playbook" in content moderation.
Last week, Spotify announced its new content policy, particularly focusing on all content related to the coronavirus pandemic. Among the measures the company decided to introduce is "a content advisory to any podcast episode that includes a discussion about COVID-19" - an actions that critics now say is not enough.
Jennifer Grygiel, Syracuse University associate professor, called the approach a nod to the "Facebook playbook", referring to how social media companies try distance themselves from some questionable content published on their platforms.
However, for Spotify things work differently than for social media platforms. It is much more complicated to post your content on Spotify compared to Facebook, Instagram or YouTube. Additionally, in the case of Joe Rogan there is also a financial aspect: it is not just about Rogan posting his content on the platform, it is also about the fact that Spotify actually paid him to do that.
"In providing Rogan a platform, Spotify is tacitly condoning the promotion of his baseless, unproven opinions to millions of listeners to dissuade them from a lifesaving vaccine, further worsening a pandemic that has disproportionately impacted Black women and women of color," Bridget Todd, director of communications at UltraViolet.
The fact that Rogan gets paid for the content he posts on Spotify has drawn attention of many, including Rogan's fellow co-creators of podcasts.
"Spotify isn’t just hosting Joe Rogan. They signed a $100 million contract with him to host his content exclusively on their platform. This isn’t about censorship. It’s about the misinformation that Spotify is financially SPONSORING," political commentator and podcast host Bryan Tyler Cohen said.
He then commented that the new Spotify policy, saying "adding a 'warning label' on the content that you, yourself, are paying $100 million to sponsor... is not a solution".
Amid the ongoing backlash, many creators and musicians have decided to part ways with Spotify, withdrawing their content from the platform. Five artists have already boycotted Spotify: Neil Young (the rocker was the one who triggered the wave of withdrawals), Joni Mitchell, Nils Lofgren, India Arie and Graham Nash.
Several podcasters have joined them: among those who quit Spotify are Mary L. Trump, the estranged niece of former US President Donald Trump, and writer Roxane Gay. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, who, like Rogan, have inked a deal with Spotify to produce their podcast, voiced their concerns to the platoform.
Joe Rogan himself has also addressed the controversy. In a video posted on Instagram, he said he "will do [his] best to try to balance out these more controversial viewpoints with other people's perspectives, so we can maybe find a better point of view." His response to the scandal drew support from prominent figures like actor Dwayne Johnson, comedian Kevin James and TV host Trevor Noah, along with many others.
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