After weeks of criticism of Spotify’s controversial podcast host Joe Rogan and the company’s opaque approach to moderating potentially dangerous inaccurate content about COVID-19 on its platform, the streaming service’s CEO Popular Daniel Ek acknowledged on Sunday that “we haven’t been transparent around the policies that guide our content more broadly.
“Based on feedback over the past few weeks, it has become clear to me that we have an obligation to do more to provide balance and access to information widely accepted by the medical and scientific communities guiding us through this time. unprecedented,” Ek said in a blog post, which announced the release of the platform’s internal content moderation policies as well as a new labeling system for COVID-19-related content.
However, Ek didn’t specifically mention Rogan or his show “The Joe Rogan Experience” — the most popular podcast on Spotify — and Ek’s post hinted that the company wasn’t going to bow to calls from artists such as Neil Young to remove Rogan’s show from the platform entirely over the host’s oft-criticized discussions of science issues related to COVID-19.
“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 this role, it’s important to me that we don’t take the position of content censor while ensuring that there are rules in place and consequences for those who break them.”
Since the start of the pandemic in 2020, Spotify has lagged many of its peers in developing a position on the “misinformation” policies that many digital platforms have adopted to limit the online distribution of content. potentially medically harmful information.
Some figures, particularly vaccine skeptics, have criticized that such policies stifle open debate online, while many medical experts have argued that promoting vaccine hesitancy or COVID-19 treatments untested could have life-threatening consequences.
Spotify found the somewhat tricky balance of creating an internal content moderation policy that it applied to some users, but which it had so far refused to post online or explain publicly.
The company’s reluctance to explain its position has been repeatedly tested by the controversies surrounding Rogan, who often interviews subjects who are skeptical of COVID-19 medical orthodoxy and who have been banned from other platforms for violating the disinformation policies. The company signed an exclusive distribution deal with Rogan in 2020, worth around $100 million, and Rogan has repeatedly said the company hasn’t tried to censor or limit what he says about his program.
The current wave of controversy began after Rogan interviewed prominent vaccine skeptic Robert Malone in December, leading 200 medical professionals, academics and others to send an open letter on January 10 demanding that the service “immediately establish a clear and public policy to moderate misinformation”. on its platform.
The misinformation rules leaked by Spotify on Sunday set the bar relatively high for content removal. It is specifically prohibited by Spotify to claim that COVID-19 is a hoax, that vaccines were “designed to cause death”, or to encourage listeners to drink bleach as a treatment or to deliberately catch the virus. virus.
It doesn’t seem to be off-limits, however, to asserting that people shouldn’t get vaccinated or that vaccines are ineffective, or a variety of other common arguments that many medical experts have criticized.
“These policies were developed by our internal team in conjunction with a number of external experts and are updated regularly to reflect the changing security landscape,” Ek wrote in his post. “These are rules of conduct to guide all of our creators – from those we work with exclusively to those whose work is shared across multiple platforms.”
Ek said the company’s new content advice label would apply to any podcast with a discussion of COVID-19, and direct users to the company’s “COVID-19 Hub,” a resource that offers access easy to fact-based, up-to-date information as shared by scientists, physicians, academics and public health authorities around the world, along with links to trusted sources.