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Spotify Responds To Joe Rogan Controversy By Dodging Responsibility Entirely In New Statement

Spotify Responds To Joe Rogan Controversy By Dodging Responsibility Entirely In New Statement

Artists and podcasters have been withdrawing their work from Spotify’s platform, and users have been cancelling the service — to such an extent that the unsubscribe mechanism actually got flooded and reportedly failed to function for some would-be cancelers.

[Photo by Michael S. Schwartz/Getty Images]

This was all over the Joe Rogan Experience podcast, which has been the subject of controversy because it’s a pretty prominent purveyor of disinformation regarding COVID-19, and protesters hoped that the pressure would force Spotify to react. The protests have definitely had an effect — NASDAQ reported Friday that the company’s stock value had fallen by about 12% since the previous week’s close, and attributed the drop at least in significant part to the controversy about Rogan’s show, particularly when he hosted Dr. Robert Malone, who inaccurately describes himself as the ‘inventor’ of mRNA vaccines and publicly campaigns against their use, and on the podcast blamed “mass formation psychosis” for people’s trust in leading science experts to give them the best health data during the pandemic.

Well, with the stock drop and the continued unsubscribings, Spotify apparently decided it was time to respond — but not by booting Rogan off their platform, or setting any rules for how he and others can use it.

Nope, instead, they announced a content warning.

We are working to add a content advisory to any podcast episode that includes a discussion about COVID-19. This advisory will direct listeners to our dedicated COVID-19 Hub, a resource that provides easy access to 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. This new effort to combat misinformation will roll out to countries around the world in the coming days.

That’s right, now if a podcast mentions COVID-19, you’ll get a content warning — whether or not the content is factual. You’ll also be provided with helpful links to accurate data, which may not exactly be helpful for folks who listen to podcasts while working, driving, or trying to fall asleep, and aren’t going to click links during those activities.

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In addition to this excessively-neutral non-response, the company has also published its content rules publicly now, including a section on “dangerous content.” That’s at least good, right? Let’s look at what’s forbidden:

Content that promotes dangerous false or dangerous deceptive medical information that may cause offline harm or poses a direct threat to public health includes, but may not be limited to:

  • asserting that AIDS, COVID-19, cancer or other serious life-threatening diseases are a hoax or not real
  • encouraging the consumption of bleach products to cure various illnesses and diseases
  • promoting or suggesting that vaccines approved by local health authorities are designed to cause death
  • encouraging people to purposely get infected with COVID-19 in order to build immunity to it (e.g. promoting or hosting “coronavirus parties”)

At least that eliminates a few of the most extreme conspiracy theories, assuming it is enforced, but that still leaves a COVID-19 conspiracy gap wide enough to fit a country through, unfortunately.

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