Spotify responds to Joe Rogan controversy with new podcast rules

31 Jan 2022

Image: © HTGanzo/Stock.adobe.com

New and updated platform rules will attempt to balance creator expression with user safety, said Spotify CEO Daniel Ek.

Spotify has responded to the controversy surrounding misinformation on Joe Rogan’s podcast with new platform rules and a content advisory to be added to shows discussing Covid-19.

The streaming platform has been under fire in recent weeks for hosting The Joe Rogan Experience, a podcast that has featured interviews criticised for spreading false information on Covid-19 and vaccines. Last week, musicians Neil Young and Joni Mitchell requested to have their music removed from Spotify after raising concerns about the spread of misinformation.

Future Human

In a statement on the Spotify website yesterday (30 January), chief executive Daniel Ek said that even though he disagrees with many views on the platform, “we have a critical role to play in supporting creator expression while balancing it with the safety of our users”.

“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,” he added.

Newly published platform rules are intended to provide transparency around the company’s policies. Dangerous, deceptive, sensitive and illegal content will be subject to review and rule-breakers will be warned, with repeat offenders risking suspension or permanent removal from the platform.

Ek said that these policies were developed by Spotify’s internal team “in concert with a number of outside experts and are updated regularly to reflect the changing safety landscape”, and will be highlighted to creators and publishers to help make them accountable for their content.

Any podcast episode the discusses Covid-19 will from now on come with an added content advisory, which will direct listeners to Spotify’s dedicated Covid-19 hub of “data-driven facts, up-to-date information as shared by scientists, physicians, academics and public health authorities around the world, as well as links to trusted sources”.

‘I have no idea what I’m going to talk about’

Rogan took to Instagram with a video in which he defended his podcast, apologised to Spotify for the backlash and spoke about possible changes to his show in the future.

“I want to thank Spotify for being so supportive during this time, and I’m very sorry that this is happening to them and that they’re taking so much from it,” he said in the nearly 10-minute long video.

He argued that some of the ideas he talks about in his podcast are not “prepared or fleshed out” because “oftentimes I have no idea what I’m going to talk about until I sit down and talk to people”.

Some of these people included Dr Robert Malone and Dr Peter McCullough, who were accused of making unsubstantiated claims surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic on Rogan’s podcast.

An episode last month in which Rogan interviewed Malone, a virologist and immunologist who has made controversial criticisms of vaccines, drew particular attention. More than 270 scientists and medical professionals called on Spotify to crack down on misinformation following the episode.

Malone, who was banned from Twitter for spreading misinformation, made baseless claims about vaccines on the Joe Rogan Experience, according to an open letter published earlier this month, and asserted that societal leaders have “hypnotised” the public. “These actions are not only objectionable and offensive, but also medically and culturally dangerous,” the letter read.

Spotify’s new platform rules state that creators should avoid “content that promotes dangerous false or dangerous deceptive medical information that may cause offline harm or poses a direct threat to public health”.

This includes asserting that AIDS, Covid-19, cancer or “other serious life-threatening diseases are a hoax or not real”, or promoting or suggesting that vaccines approved by local health authorities “are designed to cause death”.

Leaked messages to Spotify staff seen by The Verge reportedly reveal the company reviewed every Rogan episode and determined they didn’t “meet the threshold for removal”.

Don’t miss out on the knowledge you need to succeed. Sign up for the Daily Brief, Silicon Republic’s digest of need-to-know sci-tech news.

Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic

editorial@siliconrepublic.com