A few weeks ago, Neil Young contacted his managers to request that they remove his music from Spotify due to COVID-19 misinformation. The singer stated, “Spotify can have Neil Young or Joe Rogan not both”. The controversy comes after over 270 medical staff wrote an Open Letter to Spotify asking them to remove Joe Rogan’s podcast with Dr Malone. Laura Scaife questions whether this situation means that people should stop using the streaming platform altogether.
Neil Young’s statement has started an important conversation on the responsibilities of music platforms when it comes to preventing the spread of fake news.
Calls grow for users of Spotify to unsubscribe in protest
The World Health Organisation backed Neil Young’s decision with the Director General tweeting “@Neil Young thanks for standing up against misinformation and inaccuracies around #COVID19 vaccination. Public and private sector, in particular #socialmedia platforms, media, individuals – we all have a role to play to end this pandemic and infodemic”.
#DeleteSpotify has been trending on Twitter as calls grow for users of Spotify to unsubscribe in protest over their refusal to stop the spread of COVID-19 misinformation.
.@NeilYoungNYA, thanks for standing up against misinformation and inaccuracies around #COVID19 vaccination.— Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (@DrTedros) January 27, 2022
Public and private sector, in particular #socialmedia platforms, media, individuals – we all have a role to play to end this pandemic and infodemic.https://t.co/kcFyIZQF7T
It is not just the spread of COVID-19 misinformation that is causing controversy over the ‘Joe Rogan Experience’ podcasts. On the 26th January Gavin Schmidt, climate scientist, tweeted “Guys, for the love of everything holy, please, please, have somebody on who knows what the heck a climate model is!!!” in response to Jordan Peterson’s comments as a guest star on the program.
Joe Rogan has also removed 113 episodes from Spotify, including episodes with far-right commentators such as Alex Jones and Milo Yiannopoulus, where he used racist language.
However, this does not address the issue of Joe Rogan spreading COVID-19 misinformation; the controversial podcast with Dr Malone is still available for listeners. Spotify does have a ‘COVID-19 Hub’ page with information on the pandemic. This page is advertised on the ‘Joe Rogan Experience’ podcast page and offers podcasts on the pandemic and vaccinations.
Spotify’s response has been far too tame
However, these podcasts won’t get the same number of listeners as Joe Rogan’s podcast, and it is too reliant on listeners actively completing their own research.
Spotify’s response has been far too tame. Their refusal to remove Joe Rogan’s podcasts or more radically ban him from the platform implies they are prioritising profits over public safety. The chief executive of Spotify Daniel Ek even seems to support Joe Rogan, as he stated in a memo to his employees that cancelling Joe Rogan was not “the answer”.
Freedom of speech is important, but so is accountability and public safety
Spotify has been growing as a music industry over the last 10 years, with Spotify’s share of the US music market rising from 7% to 83% between 2010 and 2020. Furthermore, Joe Rogan signed a $100 million dollar deal with Spotify in 2020 giving them exclusive rights to his show. His podcast has been Spotify’s most popular podcast with an estimated 11 million listeners.
Therefore both Joe Rogan and Spotify have a responsibility to prevent the spread of COVID-19 misinformation. Freedom of speech is important, but so is accountability and public safety. As the Open Letter written by doctors and nurses around the world argues, Joe Rogan has enormous “influence”. “By allowing the propagation of false and societally harmful assertions, Spotify is enabling its hosted media to damage public trust in scientific research and sow doubt in the credibility of data-driven guidance offered by medical professionals.” I think the ongoing anti-vaccine mandates protests in Canada shows just how dangerous COVID-19 misinformation can be.
So is it time to #DeleteSpotify? For the safety of our community, I think that yes, it is.
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