After days of intense scrutiny, Spotify on Sunday said it would add content advisories on podcast episodes that include discussions on covid-19 to combat misinformation on its platform.
In a news release, Spotify CEO and co-founder Daniel Ek said that recent feedback had made it clear the company needed to do more “to provide balance and access” to scientific and medical information related to the pandemic. To achieve this, Ek explained, Spotify will roll out content advisories in the coming days for podcast episodes that mention covid-19 directing users to a comprehensive covid-19 hub.
The hub will include data-driven facts and easy-to-access current information from trusted sources, such as scientists, doctors, and public health authorities. In addition, the Spotify CEO said that the company had published its platform rules on acceptable content and would begin testing out ways to highlight these policies to its creators to help them “understand their accountability for the content they post.”
“I trust our policies, the research and expertise that inform their development, and our aspiration to apply them in a way that allows for broad debate and discussion, within the lines,” Ek said. He continued: “That doesn’t mean that we always get it right, but we are committed to learning, growing and evolving.”
Ek’s announcement capped off two tumultuous weeks during which it saw the departure of music legends Neil Young and Joni Mitchell over covid-19 misinformation on the platform, specifically on The Joe Rogan Experience podcast, and lost $2 billion in market value. Countless users also took to social media to say they were canceling their Spotify subscriptions in solidarity with the musicians.
Notably, Spotify’s announcement failed to mention the elephant in the room that put the spotlight on its misinformation policies in the first place, comedian Joe Rogan, host of its most popular podcast on the platform. It did, however, said it didn’t want to become a content censor.
“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 that role, it is important to me that we don’t take on the position of being content censor while also making sure that there are rules in place and consequences for those who violate them.”
In December, Rogan interviewed Dr. Robert Malone, who was banned from Twitter for spreading covid-19 misinformation. In the interview, Malone said people were being hypnotized into believing in the efficacy of vaccines and that hospitals had a financial incentive to classify deaths as being caused by covid-19. The episode led a group of 270 scientists, health care professionals, and educators to publish an open letter to Spotify asking it to establish a clear and public policy to moderate misinformation. They did not ask the platform to drop Rogan’s show or delete the episode.
On Sunday, Jessica Malaty Rivera, an epidemiologist who signed the open letter, shared Spotify’s announcement on Instagram Stories and said it was what the group wanted.
“This is what we asked for. Not censoring. Not deplatforming. Not canceling. Not silencing,” Rivera wrote.
As far as the implementation of Spotify’s new measures go, there’s not much to look at yet. I checked out the the hub on Sunday, and I wouldn’t necessarily classify the information on there as comprehensive or accessible, which is how Spotify characterized it. It included links to a couple of podcasts on covid-19, including shows from CNN and the BBC, and a link to the World Health Organization page on the coronavirus.
While launching the hub is a commendable move—and, to be fair, it’s probably still under construction—telling users who may have just listened to misinformation on a podcast that they have to go and listen to another podcast to get accurate information sounds mighty complicated and time-consuming. Not really what I would call effective.
As of Sunday, there was currently no content advisory on the episode of The Joe Rogan Experience featuring Malone. It’s not clear at the moment whether the advisories will label the episodes as containing misinformation or whether they will simply say that they contain information on covid-19. There’s a big difference.
Gizmodo reached out to Spotify on Sunday to ask for more information about the content advisories but did not receive a response by the time of publication. We’ll update this article if we hear back.