Following days of controversy stemming from Spotify’s handling of allegations that Joe Rogan has used the platform to spread COVID-19 misinformation, the company said on Sunday it would take new measures to point its users to accurate information about the pandemic. In a blog post attributed to CEO Daniel Ek, the company admitted it hasn’t been transparent enough about its content policy, but stopped short of detailing any specific action against Rogan.
There’s been a lot of conversation about information regarding COVID-19 on Spotify. We’ve heard the criticism and we’re implementing changes to help combat misinformation. https://t.co/ic8jfR1RNR— Daniel Ek (@eldsjal) January 30, 2022
Sometime in the next few days, Spotify says it will add a content advisory to any podcast episode that includes a discussion about COVID-19. That advisory will direct listeners to the company’s COVID-19 Hub. In its current iteration, the page includes links to podcasts from the BBC, ABC News and Foreign Policy. “To our knowledge, this content advisory is the first of its kind by a major podcast platform,” according to Ek. However, social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter have employed similar measures.
Spotify has also pledged to publicly share its content guidelines. As of today, you can read them through the company’s Newsroom website. In the future, they’ll also be accessible through Spotify’s main website, and the company has promised to translate them into a variety of other languages. Lastly, the company says it plans to start testing ways to highlight its content guidelines in the tools it offers to podcast producers and other creators.
“We know we have a critical role to play in supporting creator expression while balancing it with the safety of our users,” Ek said. “In that role, it is important to me that we don’t take on the position of being content censor while also making sure that there are rules in place and consequences for those who violate them.”
The action comes after musicians Neil Young and Joni Mitchell pulled their music from the streaming platform in protest of its handling of Rogan’s podcast and misinformation more broadly. This weekend, author Brené Brown said she would not release any new episodes of her Spotify-exclusive podcast “until further notice.”
After Young first pulled his catalog from the platform, the company defended its record against misinformation by claiming it had removed 20,000 COVID-related episodes since the start of the pandemic. However, as part of that sweep, Spotify appears to have not removed any episodes of the Joe Rogan Experience. For instance, you can still listen to the controversial episode where Dr. Robert Malone falsely claims “mass formation psychosis” has led people to believe vaccines are effective against COVID-19. The Verge subsequently published the company’s COVID-19 content guidelines. In an internal memo, Spotify said Rogan's content did not "meet the threshold for removal.”