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Spotify to add ‘content advisory’ to podcast episodes about COVID after Neil Young and Joni Mitchell pull music in misinformation row

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Spotify will now add a “content advisory” to any podcast episode which discusses coronavirus – after Neil Young and Joni Mitchell pulled their music from the platform due to misinformation about COVID vaccines.

Chief executive Daniel Ek also said the streaming giant will publish its “long-standing platform rules”, to be more transparent about “the policies that guide our content more broadly”.

Young and Mitchell removed their music from Spotify because it hosts The Joe Rogan Experience (TJRE) podcast, which has discouraged young people from getting vaccinated against coronavirus and shared a number of false claims about the jab.

Prince Harry and Meghan later weighed in, claiming they expressed concerns about the spread of misinformation on the platform last April. The couple signed a multi-year deal with Spotify to host and produce podcasts in 2020.

Joe Rogan has told fans he has COVID-19. Pic: Reuters
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Joe Rogan’s podcast has featured misinformation about coronavirus jabs

What is Spotify going to do?

In a post on Spotify’s website announcing the steps being taken, Mr Ek says: “Personally, there are plenty of views on Spotify that I disagree with strongly… 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.”

He then goes on to outline how any podcast episode about COVID will now be accompanied by a content advisory.

He writes: “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.”

Mr Ek says the company will also begin publishing its platform rules, which were “developed by our internal team in concert with a number of outside experts and are updated regularly to reflect the changing safety landscape”.

The rules tell contributors not to promote dangerous, deceptive, sensitive or illegal content on its platform.

The guidance adds that “breaking the rules may result in the violative content being removed from Spotify”.

Mr Ek also said the company will “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”.

FILE - Neil Young poses for a portrait in Santa Monica, Calif. on Sept. 9, 2019. Spotify says it will grant the veteran rocker's request to remove his music from its streaming platform. Young made the request as a protest to what he called the company's decision to allow COVID-19 misinformation to spread on its service. (Photo by Rebecca Cabage/Invision/AP, File)
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Neil Young and (below) Joni Mitchell have removed their music from Spotify. Pics: AP
Joni Mitchell has said she will be removing her music from Spotify. Pic: AP

Sussexes won’t follow Young and Mitchell off Spotify

The statement comes as Prince Harry and Meghan said they will continue to work with the platform despite their concerns about misinformation.

The couple signed a lucrative deal with the streaming giant to host and produce podcasts, estimated to be worth around $25m (£18m), in late 2020.

A spokesperson from the couple’s charity Archewell said: “Hundreds of millions of people are affected by the serious harms of rampant mis- and disinformation every day.

“Last April, our co-founders began expressing concerns to our partners at Spotify about the all too real consequences of COVID-19 misinformation on its platform.

“We have continued to express our concerns to Spotify to ensure changes to its platform are made to help address this public health crisis.

“We look to Spotify to meet this moment and are committed to continuing our work together as it does.”

Spotify acquired The Joe Rogan Experience podcast in 2020, reportedly for more than $100m (£77m).

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