Spotify announced on Monday that it will issue “content advisories” to accompany any episode of “The Joe Rogan Experience” that discusses covid after receiving an onslaught of backlash from the public. Rogan, who regularly pushes controversial anti-vax ideas and has promoted ivermectin as treatment for covid on his podcast has since responded to criticism by saying he’ll try to offer more balance on his show. Sure, considering the state of media literacy and American democracy right now, I’m certain that’ll work!
The streaming service’s “content advisory” play comes on the heels of both users and artists protesting the streamer for Rogan’s torrent of misinformation around covid. The artists protesting include legends like Neil Young and Joni Mitchell, who told Spotify to either remove Rogan’s podcast or their music from the platform. Over the weekend, best-selling author and exclusive Spotify podcaster Brené Brown announced she would no longer be publishing new episodes “until further notice,” as well. This fallout comes mere weeks after a coalition of nearly 300 medical professionals signed a letter (at the height of the omicron surge) urging Spotify to take action on the “false and societally harmful” covid-related content on its platform—primarily coming from Rogan’s podcast, which reaches nearly 11 million listeners per episode.
Spotify has exclusively hosted “The Joe Rogan Experience” since signing a $100 million deal with Rogan in 2020. As the sole platform for perhaps the most popular, aggressively anti-vaccine podcast in the world, Spotify’s—I use this word very loosely—”solution” for handling misinformation isn’t really a solution at all. Take, for example, the endless deluge of anti-vax misinformation on popular social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram. The little footnotes these platforms add to posts on covid don’t stop them from being shared, nor from inspiring real-life reckless behaviors.
Content advisories don’t work, but deplatforming does. The bigger issue is corporate greed. As Spotify is the sole publisher and distributor of Rogan’s lucrative lies, it’s not shocking that they’d follow the lead of other companies and go for what’s presumably making them money (keeping Rogan on the platform) as opposed to the more “righteous” path (removing him entirely). Take Facebook and its parent company Meta, who have raked in loads of money.
Funnily enough, Spotify lost about $2 billion this week as its stock has plummeted since the removal of Young’s music. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, who are Spotify partners, are reportedly “concerned” with the streamer’s handling of covid misinformation, as well, while some of Spotify’s biggest artists like Taylor Swift are facing pressure from their fans to join Young in protesting the streamer.
Spotify’s severe mishandling of this situation is a slap in the face to its many smaller artists who aren’t Swift, Young, or Mitchell. While the massive streaming service maintains its $100 million deal with Rogan and appears willing to lose billions standing by him, Spotify pays most of its artists a measly $0.003 to $0.005 per stream on their notably not deadly music.
Ultimately, misinformation is getting people—particularly those who are immunocompromised or marginalized in the health system—sick or, worse, killed, and that’s apparently a small price for Spotify to pay for “The Joe Rogan Experience.”