Spotify attempts to combat COVID misinformation amidst Joe Rogan scandal

Spotify will add content advisories to podcast episodes that contain discussions about COVID-19 and publish platform rules following recent controversies surrounding podcaster Joe Rogan.

In a recent statement, Spotify CEO Daniel Ek acknowledged the company’s lack of transparency surrounding policies that guide content. The new effort to combat misinformation, as Ek put it, will provide more balance and promote accountability for creators. The content advisory will direct listeners to a dedicated COVID-19 page which highlights podcast episodes and interviews from experts and reputable news outlets that provide factual, up-to-date information about the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID vaccine makers Pfizer and J&J sponsor their own podcasts available on the Spotify platform. Pfizer's series, called The Antigen, is about the scientific, cultural and political elements of vaccination. The J&J Innovation podcast explores trends in healthcare and the thinkers, organizations and ideas behind them.

Platform rules, which are now available on Spotify’s website, outline what is defined as dangerous, deceptive and sensitive content. The consequences for breaking the rules may result in creators having their content removed from the platform, according to the webpage. Despite the new rules, Ek says it is not the company’s role to censor content, but to make sure there are rules and consequences in place. 

The company has been under fire recently for their promotion of Rogan’s controversial podcast, The Joe Rogan Experience, which has been accused of promoting misinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic. In an open letter to Spotify written in December, 270 medical experts said Rogan’s podcast promoted “baseless conspiracy theories” and false claims about COVID-19 vaccines, including urging young people not to get vaccinated.

Rogan’s show is the most listened to podcast on the platform. In 2020, Spotify struck a $100 million deal with Rogan for exclusive rights to his content.  In response to Rogan’s claims and Spotify’s inaction, musicians have been pulling their catalogs from Spotify’s platform. Most prominently was Neil Young, who is expected to lose 60% of his streaming revenue following his Jan. 26 announcement that he would pull his music from the platform.

The folk-rock singer said his decision was made “in the name of truth” and urged other artists to do the same.  Some followed suit, with singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell and rock guitarist Nils Lofgren, a member of Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band, pulling their respective catalogs. On Jan. 29, bestselling author Brené Brown announced she would not be producing any more podcast episodes until further notice, despite a multi-year contract recently signed with the company. 

Following the release of Spotify’s new platform rules and content advisories, Rogan apologized in a 10-minute Instagram video that has also been uploaded to Rogan’s Spotify channel. In it, Rogan supported Spotify’s efforts to balance the platform and pledged to do better. Spotify lost more than $2 billion in market value, following the controversy last week. Since Rogan’s apology stock prices have jumped 12%.