It’s been a bad couple of days for Spotify CEO Daneil Ek. First, his company’s stock continues to drop, falling 25% so far this year. Then along came Neil Young with his boycott over Joe Rogan’s podcast (a Spotify exclusive property) over the dissemination of disinformation and misinformation regarding COVID.
Rogan’s stances had been a pain in the ass for some time, corporately speaking, with a group of doctors demanding Spotify do something about Rogan’s content along with stories of staff revolts over some of what’s appeared on Rogan’s show.
Today (January 30), Ek responded with an open letter. I quote it all here, highlighting some of the more interesting bits.
“A decade ago, we created Spotify to enable the work of creators around the world to be heard and enjoyed by listeners around the world. To our very core, we believe that listening is everything. Pick almost any issue and you will find people and opinions on either side of it. Personally, there are plenty of individuals and views on Spotify that I disagree with strongly. We know we have a critical role to play in supporting creator expression while balancing it with the safety of our users. 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.
“You’ve had a lot of questions over the last few days about our platform policies and the lines we have drawn between what is acceptable and what is not. We have had rules in place for many years but admittedly, we haven’t been transparent around the policies that guide our content more broadly. This, in turn, led to questions around their application to serious issues including COVID-19.
“Based on the feedback over the last several weeks, it’s become clear to me that we have an obligation to do more to provide balance and access to widely-accepted information from the medical and scientific communities guiding us through this unprecedented time. These issues are incredibly complex. We’ve heard you – especially those from the medical and scientific communities – and are taking the following steps:
–“Today we are publishing our long-standing Platform Rules. These policies were developed by our internal team in concert with a number of outside experts and are updated regularly to reflect the changing safety landscape. These are rules of the road to guide all of our creators—from those we work with exclusively to those whose work is shared across multiple platforms. You can now find them on our newsroom, and they’ll live permanently on the main Spotify website. They are being localized into various languages to help our users understand how Spotify assesses all content on our platform.
–“We are working to add a content advisory to any podcast episode that includes a discussion about COVID-19. This advisory will direct listeners to our 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.
–“We will also begin testing ways to highlight our Platform Rules in our creator and publisher tools to raise awareness around what’s acceptable and help creators understand their accountability for the content they post on our platform. This is in addition to the terms that creators and publishers agree to governing their use of our services.
“I want you to know that from the very first days of the pandemic, Spotify has been biased toward action. We launched a variety of educational resources and campaigns to raise awareness and we developed and promoted a global COVID-19 Information Hub. We donated ad inventory to various organizations for vaccine awareness, funds to the World Health Organization and COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) to increase vaccine equity and supported the Go Give One fundraising campaign. And we established a music relief project to support the creative community. While this is not a complete list, I hope it gives you a sense of how seriously we’ve approached the pandemic as a company.
“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. We take this seriously and will continue to partner with experts and invest heavily in our platform functionality and product capabilities for the benefit of creators and listeners alike. That doesn’t mean that we always get it right, but we are committed to learning, growing and evolving.”
Uh-huh. So the solution is a COVID equivalent of a parental advisory warning? Let’s see how far that takes them. And with more than 3 million podcasts on the platform, there’s a lot of policin’ to do. And notice that Ek didn’t mention Rogan by name.
Rogan himself felt the need to weigh in via Instagram. He both apologized and defended his stance. (He also should have known the difference between Joni Mitchell and Rickie Lee Jones.)
“If I pissed you off, I’m sorry. And if you enjoy the podcast, thank you.” But he gave no ground, saying that he doesn’t trade in misinformation. He also defends his “highly credentialed, very intelligent, very accomplished” guests.
Uh-huh. Should have checked on Dr. Peter McCullough and Dr. Robert Malone before you booked them, Joe.
“They have an opinion that is different from the mainstream narrative. I wanted to hear what their opinion is.”
Uh-huh. And it’s dangerous stuff that could end up killing people. And probably has, come to think of it.
He goes on to say that the show “will have more experts with differing opinions, right after the controversial ones… to try to balance out these more controversial viewpoints with other people’s perspectives so we can maybe find a better point of view.”
Uh-huh. I’ll believe it when I hear it.
Did I mention that Spotify is due to announce some financial results on Wednesday?
Right. We’ll see.