Spotify responds to Joe Rogan controversy with plan to fight misinformation

Spotify founder Daniel Ek onstage in 2018
Spotify founder Daniel Ek onstage in 2018 (Image credit: Monica Schipper/Getty Images)

Streaming platform Spotify have responded to the ongoing controversy surrounding their hosting of the Joe Rogan podcast, which came in for criticism after a guest appearance from vaccine cynic Dr. Robert Malone. 

The news comes after the departure of Neil Young and Joni Mitchell from the platform. The pair were joined yesterday by Crazy Horse and E-Street Band guitarist Nils Lofgren, who penned a letter on the Neil Young Archive

“A few days ago, my wife Amy and I became aware of Neil and Daryl [Hannah] standing with hundreds of health care professionals, scientists, doctors and nurses in calling out Spotify for promoting lies and misinformation that are hurting and killing people,” he wrote. “When these heroic women and men, who’ve spent their lives healing and saving ours, cry out for help you don’t turn your back on them for money and power. You listen and stand with them.

“As I write this letter, we’ve now gotten the last 27 years of my music taken off Spotify. We are reaching out to the labels that own my earlier music to have it removed as well. We sincerely hope they honour our wishes, as Neil’s labels have done, his.”

Spotify founder Daniel Ek has now taken steps to address the situation, tweeting, "There’s been a lot of conversation about information regarding Covid-19 on Spotify. We’ve heard the criticism and we’re implementing changes to help combat misinformation."

In a longer press statement, Ek laid out the company's plans in more depth, promising that Spotify would be making their Platform Rules public, and would add a content advisory to any podcast episode that included discussion about Covid-19.

"To our very core, we believe that listening is everything," wrote Ek. "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." 

Last week, a Spotify spokesman revealed that the company had removed 20,000 podcast episodes related to Covid-19 which fell foul of their guidelines. According to a memo leaked to tech website The Verge, the company had also reviewed several episodes of Rogan's podcast, and decided they “didn’t meet the threshold for removal.”

"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 finishes. "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." 

Fraser Lewry

Online Editor at Louder/Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 38 years in music industry, online for 25. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Former Head of Music at Xfm Radio, A&R at Fiction Records, early blogger, ex-roadie, published author. Once appeared in a Cure video dressed as a cowboy, and thinks any situation can be improved by the introduction of cats. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović.