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Following Neil Young Protest, Spotify Says It Will Take Steps To Combat Vaccine Misinformation

After Neil Young, Joni Mitchell and others pulled their catalogues from Spotify in protest of the streaming platform hosting what they perceived as misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines, CEO Daniel Ek has issued a statement.

Last week, Young announced he would be withdrawing his music from the platform to protest “fake information about vaccines” being shared via the platform, specifically pointing to the Joe Rogan Experience, which is hosted exclusively on Spotify following a $100 million deal between the platform and the controversial podcast host.

“[Spotify] can have Rogan or Young. Not both,” Young wrote at the time, criticising the platform for allowing Rogan to share his unverified opinions about COVID-19 vaccines, “potentially causing death to those who believe the disinformation being spread.”

“With an estimated 11million listeners per episode, JRE, which is hosted exclusively on Spotify, is the world’s largest podcast and has tremendous influence,” he wrote. “Spotify has a responsibility to mitigate the spread of misinformation on its platform, though the company presently has no misinformation policy.”

Shortly after, Mitchell announced she would be pulling her catalogue from the platform too, in solidarity with Young. “Irresponsible people are spreading lies that are costing people their lives,” she wrote at the time. “I stand in solidarity with Neil Young and the global scientific and medical communities on this issue.”

Mitchell shared a link to the open letter signed by a “coalition of scientists, medical professionals, professors, and science communicators,” which takes issue with COVID misinformation broadcast on the Joe Rogan Experience. 

Now, in a statement on Spotify’s website, Ek has outlined a number of steps he says the platform will take to fight vaccine misinformation, but did not specifically respond to Young and others’ calls for the Joe Rogan Experience episodes containing “misinformation” to be pulled.

Instead, they’ve made their platform rules for creators on the platform publicly accessible, which detail what kind of content is not permitted to be shared on Spotify. That includes content “that promotes dangerous false or dangerous deceptive medical information that may cause offline harm or poses a direct to public health.” Examples provided included asserting COVID-19 is a “hoax”, suggesting authorised vaccines are “designed to cause death”, and encouraging people to get infected with COVID-19 on purpose.

Ek went on to write that the company plans to add content advisories to podcast episodes that feature discussions about COVID-19, directing listeners to the platform’s dedicated COVID-19 hub, “a resource that provides easy access to data-driven facts, up-to-date information as shared by scientists, physicians, academics and public health authorities around the world, as well as links to trusted sources.

“This new effort to combat misinformation will roll out to countries around the world in the coming days. To our knowledge, this content advisory is the first of its kind by a major podcast platform.”

Following Young’s protest, Spotify’s market capitalisation fell $4 billion over a three-day period last week. Apart from Young and Mitchell, others who have requested their catalogue be taken down from the platform in protest include musician Nils Lofgren and comedian Tom Scharpling, who has pulled his podcast The Best Show. At the time of writing, it’s unclear whether Spotify’s statement today will mean a return of any of the aforementioned artists’ catalogues to the platform.

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