Spotify will now add COVID-19 content advisories to podcast episodes that discuss COVID-19 following criticism of the platform’s handling of the controversial content in the Joe Rogan Experience. The advisory will lead to Spotify’s COVID-19 hub, which contains credible and up-to-date information about the pandemic.
To increase transparency around its treatment of the issue, Spotify is making its COVID-19 content policy and general platform rules publicly available on its site. Spotify says anyone who breaks the rules may have the content in question removed, with repeat offenders potentially having their accounts suspended or banned. The Verge obtained this policy ahead of the platform’s public release, and an internal memo revealed that Joe Rogan’s podcast didn’t “meet the threshold for removal.”
According to the policy, Spotify prohibits content that asserts “AIDS, COVID-19, cancer or other serious life threatening diseases are a hoax or not real.” The platform also bans content that encourages people “to purposely get infected with COVID-19 in order to build immunity” and doesn’t allow content that suggests vaccines “are designed to cause death.” However, compared to the document posted internally and viewed by The Verge, the wording on examples has changed, and one line is missing entirely. It specifically called out “Suggesting that wearing a mask will cause the wearer imminent, life-threatening physical harm.”
“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,” Spotify CEO Daniel Ek says in a blog post. “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...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.”
Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, and Nils Lofgren have all had their music removed from the platform in protest of Rogan’s podcast, where he has, among other things, suggested that healthy young people don’t need the COVID-19 vaccine. Popular podcaster Brené Brown also says she will take a break from adding new episodes to her Spotify-exclusive shows, although it’s unclear whether the controversy surrounding Rogan was the cause.
Content that promotes dangerous false or dangerous deceptive medical information that may cause offline harm or poses a direct threat to public health includes, but may not be limited to:
asserting that AIDS, COVID-19, cancer or other serious life threatening diseases are a hoax or not real
encouraging the consumption of bleach products to cure various illnesses and diseases
promoting or suggesting that vaccines approved by local health authorities are designed to cause death
encouraging people to purposely get infected with COVID-19 in order to build immunity to it (e.g. promoting or hosting “coronavirus parties”)