Spotify’s problems are bigger than Joe Rogan


From musicians to , Spotify is under attack from all sides. Furore over Joe Rogan’s podcast and Spotify’s subsequent misinformation policies and actions came both internally and externally. Much of the backlash is justified because Spotify hasn’t been upfront about the content of Rogan’s podcast, or misinformation in general. And the lack of transparency is why the company’s current issues are so much bigger than a massively popular creator.

By now you’ve probably heard Something on the Joe Rogan saga. The popular podcast host has been controversial for years, but criticism intensified after a December 31 episode starring . While speaking to Rogan, Dr. Malone made a number of unsubstantiated claims about COVID-19 vaccines, including that led to many in the United States taking the hit. After the episode was posted, hundreds of doctors, nurses, scientists and educators sent a letter to Spotify urging it to create a clear misinformation policy and take “responsibility to mitigate the spread ” of this content.

When the group posted the letter online, Engadget contacted Spotify to ask if the company already had a misinformation policy, how it takes action against misinformation, and if it was considering any action against the Malone episode. JRE. The company did not respond. Two weeks later, CEO Daniel Ek wrote a statement about it and on a Sunday afternoon. It’s unclear if Ek was already planning to post the platform-wide policy or if it was in response to why certain episodes of Rogan’s podcast weren’t removed.

During the company’s fourth quarter 2021 earnings call last week, Ek took responsibility. “We should have done it earlier and it’s mine,” he admitted. on the same day, the CEO explained that Spotify isn’t a publisher, so he doesn’t have creative control over Rogan’s show up front. He said that since JRE is licensed content, it doesn’t have oversight like podcasts from The Ringer or Gimlet – the production companies Spotify owns. “We don’t pre-approve their guests, and like any other creator, we get their content when they post, then we review it, and if they violate our policies, we take appropriate enforcement action. “Ek said.

A control room at Spotify’s “Pod City”.

Genaro Molina via Getty Images

Washington Post According to columnist Margaret Sullivan, “Spotify’s failure to take meaningful responsibility, other than adding a few disclaimers, is too reminiscent of how Facebook, for years, dodged responsibility for spreading so many harmful lies”. And part of the dodging of responsibility comes in the form of Spotify’s argument of a platform versus a publisher.

Spotify is a publisher, no matter what it says otherwise. Pay 100 million dollars to lock JRE because an exclusive brings more responsibility for its content than a show from “any other creator”. Ek argued during that same speech to employees that “exclusivity doesn’t equal approval” and that the solution is to secure “an even broader set of exclusives that represent even more voices.” These two statements indicate that Spotify is trying to build a foundation as the house nears completion.

A treasure trove of exclusives has helped make Spotify the number one podcast app in the United States, according to Ek. Over the past few years, the company has purchased studios producing podcasts like , and , making shows exclusive to its service along the way. He’s amassed a slew of talent, including the world’s most popular podcast on Spotify on Joe Rogan’s show. Of course, this resembles the behavior of an editor.

One of Spotify was Anchor, which made it easy to create and publish shows. The company has since leveraged its powerful ad setup for shows on the service, and Anchor has regularly introduced . It’s literally a place anyone can post a podcast and it’s helped Spotify add over a million shows to their library. At the end of 2020, Spotify said Anchor accounted for 70% of its podcasts, .

Spotify Ringtone

Billy Steele/Engadget

However, Anchor’s platform policy has not been updated. There is no mention of misinformation about COVID-19, except for a statement that prohibits content “in conflict with the Terms, as determined by Spotify, collectively (“Objectionable Content”)”. Currently, this would include Spotify’s recently released policy. However, until recently, these guidelines were not public and Anchor did not clearly display Spotify’s policy. Now it does when you download a show.

“The Spotify Platform Rules apply to all content on Spotify, including Anchor,” a Spotify spokesperson told Engadget. “We started highlighting our Platform Guidelines in our creator and editor tools on February 2 to raise awareness of what is acceptable and to help creators understand their responsibility for the content they post on our platform.”

The lack of transparent guidelines is Spotify’s biggest problem. The issue goes beyond Joe Rogan and spans the entire platform. When asked for comment on the service (at its request), the company said it has “detailed content policies in place and we have removed over 20,000 podcast episodes related to COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic”. These policies were not made public until four days later. Additionally, when Engadget asked for information about the “over 20,000” podcasts that had been taken down, Spotify did not respond.

Currently, we only know about content actions. So what happens when a creator who doesn’t get paid a lot of money espouses views similar to what Joe Rogan or his guests share on JRE? You know, the ones that the company has already declared “did not meet the deletion threshold”. During last week’s earnings call, Ek insisted that Spotify doesn’t “change our policies based on a creator or change them based on a media cycle or calls from anyone. ‘another’. However, of Rogan’s show dating back to July 2020 repeatedly highlights that the podcast host has broken “longstanding” rules on violence or hatred toward marginalized communities and misinformation about COVID-19.

Spotify tells employees more about the situation than the public, and none of it is sensitive information or a trade secret. By addressing a major controversy privately, which is eventually reported by the media, the company erodes its remaining trust even further. The company has not publicly confirmed that it removed more than 70 pre-Spotify-deal episodes of Joe Rogan’s podcast for racist language, including use of the n-word, late last week at the Rogan asks. But, again, internally. Why not just let an anonymous spokesperson confirm the details when asked? Especially considering Rogan himself in an apology video. The company must also open up about podcast removals and disclose its review process.

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 20, 2021 - Studio 4 will be used for audio and video podcasts indoors,
A studio inside Spotify’s “Pod City”

Genaro Molina via Getty Images

Spotify has created a content policy, so it is clearly thinking about how to control its platform. But what is in place now is only a partial fix requiring immediate expansion, explanation and revision before more damage is done. It’s vague at a time when some details would go a long way. This isn’t about asking the company to “shut up” Joe Rogan about his views on COVID or anyone else who got it wrong on a podcast. It’s clear that the company won’t do it under the terms of its current deal with the host anyway. But a general warning label and especially the rationalization of his actions in private are not enough.

Of course, Spotify isn’t the first big tech company to hide behind the “platform” label, especially when it comes to taking responsibility for content. Facebook is perhaps the biggest example, as it has argued that it is. CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the company bears some responsibility for what’s on the site, but it did. Facebook also argued that it was a publisher when taking such a position. Twitter made the same case, especially when asked about a story regarding Hunter Biden’s laptop. “Is Twitter a publisher? No we are not. We distribute information,” then-CEO Jack Dorsey told Congress. Section 230, the law that currently applies to user posts, allows companies to make their case. And that’s a big reason is looking.

ek that “voicing cancellation is a slippery slope”, and it’s true. The problem is the CEO’s mission to find “a balance”, whether with a greater variety of viewpoints or by equally weighting Unless that balance is accompanied by more transparency and oversight, more volume won’t solve anything.

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