When Spotify started removing Neil Young’s playlist from its service, it defended its practices against misinformation and said that it had already pulled over 20,000 COVID-related podcast episodes. Young threatened to remove his catalog from the service over allegations that Joe Rogan is spreading COVID-19 vaccine misinformation through his podcast. Despite what Spotify said, The Joe Rogan Experience is still available on the platform, and Spotify’s COVID content policy (as seen by The Verge) might be able to explain why that’s the case.
Apparently, even Spotify’s employees are upset with the company’s partnership with Rogan due to his views on COVID-19. Company head of global communications Dustee Jenkins reportedly addressed those concerns on Spotify’s Slack and told employees that a team had already reviewed multiple controversial Joe Rogan Experience episodes and found that they “didn’t meet the threshold for removal.” She called members of the team who did the internal review “some of the best experts in the space” and also said that Spotify is working with third parties to help it evolve its policies. “What Spotify hasn’t done is move fast enough to share these policies externally, and are working to address that as soon as possible,” she added.
While Spotify has yet to share those policies, The Verge posted a copy of the healthcare guidelines section, which prohibits:
“Content that promotes dangerous false or deceptive content about healthcare that may cause offline harm and/or pose a direct threat to public health such as:
Denying the existence of AIDS or COVID-19
Encouraging the deliberate contracting of a serious or life threatening disease or illness
Suggesting that consuming bleach can cure various illnesses and diseases
Suggesting that wearing a mask will cause the wearer imminent, life-threatening physical harm
Promoting or suggesting that the vaccines are designed to cause death”
There’s a lot podcasters can get away with with such a narrow and limited set of rules. In comparison, YouTube makes it clear that any content with claims that contradict local health authorities or WHO is prohibited on its website. It’s not just suggestions that wearing a mask will cause harm that’s prohibited on the Google-owned service, but also claims that masking does not help prevent the contraction or transmission of COVID-19. A podcast host on Spotify can say the latter without repercussions. Spotify also doesn’t have a rule prohibiting claims that ivermectin is a safe and effective treatment for the virus.
Back in December, a group of scientists and doctors sent an open letter to Spotify, asking it to implement a misinformation policy after Rogan guested Dr. Robert Malone on his show. In the controversial episode, Malone claimed people only believe that COVID-19 vaccines are effective due to “mass formation psychosis.” The group also listed several “misleading and false claims” Rogan made on his podcast throughout the pandemic, including the time he said mRNA vaccines are “gene therapy” and another when he promoted the use of ivermectin to treat COVID-19.