Why streaming giant Spotify is facing the music over Joe Rogan, COVID-19 and Neil Young

The Swedish streaming giant has issued a statement saying it will add a content advisory to coronavirus-related podcasts after artists accused podcaster Joe Rogan of promoting misinformation about vaccines

Music streaming giant Spotify is in a spot of bother.

The company has lost anywhere between $2 and $4 billion in value, artists have been demanding that their music be pulled off the platform and users uninstalling with the app. The hashtag CancelSpotify has also gone viral.

Let's examine why the Swedish streaming giant is facing the music:

Spotify gets the full Joe Rogan Experience

In May 2020, Spotify inked a $100 million deal with arguably the biggest podcaster on the planet: Joe Rogan.

Now critics say Spotify is getting exactly what it paid for: The Joe Rogan Experience.

Rogan, who has become a lightning rod for giving platforms to far-right personalities, climate deniers and conspiracy theorists, recently interviewed Dr Robert Malone.

Malone, a virologist and immunologist,  has become a hero in the anti-vaccine community and been banned from Twitter for sharing misinformation.

Malone has questioned the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine and falsely suggested that millions of people have "been hypnotised into believing" that the vaccines work to prevent serious disease.

Rogan, who is not exactly known for challenging his guests on their views, later put out  a video on Instagram saying that he was only seeking to have conversations on his podcast with people who have “differing opinions.”

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Joe Rogan (@joerogan)

"If I pissed you off, I'm sorry," Rogan said. "I will do my best to try to balance out these more controversial viewpoints with other people's perspectives so we can maybe find a better point of view."

“I'm not trying to promote misinformation, I'm not trying to be controversial,” Rogan said. “I've never tried to do anything with this podcast other than to just talk to people.”

He also said that he schedules the guests on his podcast himself, and that he would try to book doctors with different opinions right after he talks to “the controversial ones.” Rogan noted that he earlier sat down on the show with Dr Sanjay Gupta, the chief medical correspondent for CNN, Dr Michael Osterholm, who is a member of President Joe Biden's COVID-19 advisory board, and Dr Peter Hotez from Baylor College of Medicine.

Artists voice concern

Following Rogan’s podcast, veteran rocker Neil Young demanded that they remove his music from Spotify to protest Rogan spreading misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine.

The US rocker had written a letter to the streaming platform asking for his music to be pulled off because Spotify “is spreading false information about vaccines — potentially causing death to those who believe the disinformation”.

Young had reportedly said Spotify “can have Rogan or Young. Not both.”

File image of Neil Young in Santa Monica, California. AP

File image of Neil Young in Santa Monica, California. AP

Following his request, Spotify, in a statement on Wednesday, said that it regretted Young's decision, “but hope to welcome him back soon.”

However, Young wasn’t the only one who asked for his music to be pulled off the platform.

On Friday, Joni Mitchell sought to remove all of her music from Spotify in solidarity with Neil Young.

Mitchell, who like Young is a California-based songwriter, said, "Irresponsible people are spreading lies that are costing people their lives. I stand in solidarity with Neil Young and the global scientific and medical communities on this issue.”

It is of signifance to note that Young and Mitchell are both polio survivors -- contracting it in the early 1950s before a vaccine became available.

Britain's Prince Harry and his wife Meghan also waded into the controversy and expressed their concern to Spotify about COVID-19 misinformation on its platform.

A spokesperson for their Archewell foundation was quoted as telling Reuters, "Hundreds of millions of people are affected by the serious harms of rampant mis- and disinformation every day. Last April, our co-founders began expressing concerns to our partners at Spotify about the all too real consequences of COVID-19 misinformation on its platform.

"We have continued to express our concerns to Spotify to ensure changes to its platform are made to help address this public health crisis. We look to Spotify to meet this moment and are committed to continuing our work together as it does."

Spotify takes action

Reacting to the negative press and the billions of lost valuation, the music streaming service on Sunday said that it will add content advisories before podcasts discussing the virus.

In a post Sunday, Spotify chief executive Daniel Ek laid out more transparent platform rules.

“Personally, there are plenty of individuals and views on Spotify that I disagree with strongly,” wrote Ek. “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.”

Ek said that the advisories will link to Spotify's fact-based COVID-19 hub in what he described as a “new effort to combat misinformation.”

It will roll out in the coming days, Ek added.

He did not specifically reference Rogan or Young.

With inputs from agencies

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