Spotify's 'misinformation honeymoon' is over, the whip has been cracked

Joe-rogan (Image credit: Android Central)

Spotify "misread the room" by dismissing Canadian singer Neil Young's concerns over misinformation, experts say. They add that mega artists are proving that Spotify is a broadcaster rather than a distributor and the platform needs to be held to "higher standards."

On Sunday, Spotify, which is one of the best Android apps, announced it was now adding content advisories before podcasts that discuss COVID-19. The news follows concerns from Young over the spread of virus misinformation through Joe Rogan's podcast. The list of celebrities calling out Spotify now includes Canadian musician Joni Mitchell and Nils Lofgren, the Bruce Springsteen guitarist, among others.

More recently, 270 doctors and health professionals also wrote an open letter to Spotify asking it to take action on the podcast and accused the company of spreading misinformation.

Spotify's chief executive Daniel Ek wrote in a news post the platform's rules on how it will be now labeling content with an advisory. The rules came after Young had his music removed from Spotify on Wednesday after the streaming service declined to remove episodes of The Joe Rogan Experience, which has been criticized for spreading misinformation about COVID-19.

"Personally, there are plenty of individuals and views on Spotify that I disagree with strongly," Ek wrote. "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."

The new advisories on Spotify will now link to a fact-based COVID-19 hub, which is considered to be a "new effort to combat misinformation" on the platform.

Why did it take Spotify so long to place COVID-19 advisories?

Spotify on the Pixel 4 XL

Source: Joe Maring / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Joe Maring / Android Central)

Carmi Levy, a technology analyst, says that Spotify really didn't need to act because up until now there hasn't been a "flashpoint-like triggering event that would have compelled them to act."

He adds that streaming services like Spotify are somewhat different from traditional social media platforms in that the "diversity of content across their networks is far easier to manage."

Spotify has to keep up with eight million or so artists, 57,000 of whom account for 90% of the platform's overall streams, he notes, compared to billions of users on platforms like Twitter or Facebook.

While consumers, in general, targeted [social media] players like Facebook and Twitter for not doing enough to curb misinformation, Spotify was able to hide in the virtual shadows for a bit. The controversy around The Joe Rogan Experience makes it abundantly clear that the misinformation honeymoon for streaming services is over, and Spotify now faces something of a reckoning, as do other players in its competitive space. The misinformation wars have now firmly arrived on the streaming industry's doorstep, — Technology analyst Carmi Levy

New York Times' technology columnist Kevin Roose writes that what also differentiates Spotify from platforms like Google's YouTube, Twitter, and Meta's Facebook are ad-supported businesses.

"If advertisers disagree with moderation decisions, they can threaten to inflict financial damage by pulling their campaigns," Roose says. "Spotify, by contrast, makes most of its money from subscriptions. So it's unlikely to suffer financially from its handling of Mr. Rogan unless there's a wave of account cancellations. And given how few Netflix subscribers appear to have canceled their subscriptions during last year's dust-up with Mr. Chapelle, Spotify can probably breathe easy on this now."

Android Central reached out to Spotify, Google's YouTube Music, and Tidal about content advisories placed before content around COVID-19, but did not get a comment in time for publication.

In an email, Apple pointed to the company's list of guidelines for podcasts (opens in new tab), but the company did not indicate if content advisories are placed before podcasts.

Artists are challenging a key component of the music industry

Spotify Podcasts Lifestyle

Source: Chris Wedel/Android Central (Image credit: Source: Chris Wedel/Android Central)

Alan Cross, host of the Ongoing History of New Music radio program, says that artists like Young and Mitchell dared to challenge an important component of the modern music industry, the difference between a broadcaster and a distributor.

"By doing so, they've pointed out that with the Joe Rogan Experience, Spotify is essentially a broadcaster instead of a distributor. Since they own the exclusive rights to the distribution of Rogan, that holds them to higher standards than if they were just one of many distributors with no financial stake/ownership in the property," he says.

Spotify paid more than $100 million for exclusive rights to Rogan's podcast in 2020, which made him the headline act for the streaming giant's podcast division.

Cross adds that Young "picked a scab," which has encouraged people to "rise up to voice their concerns about Rogan's dissemination of disinformation."

Anshel Sag, a senior analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, says that it is also possible that Spotify's decision to pay $100 million was likely done "without enough due diligence on his views and his factual accuracy or many guardrails."

"His recent statement in defense of Spotify seems like perhaps there might be some clauses protecting the company," he says.

Rogan responded on Sunday, via Instagram, that he wanted to have conversations on his podcast with people of differing opinions.

"I'm not trying to promote misinformation, I'm not trying to be controversial," he said. "I've never tried to do anything with this podcast other than just talk to people." He also added that he welcomes Spotify's new content advisories.

Sag adds that Spotify should have rules for podcasters around factual accuracy as well as including content advisories around COVID-19 misinformation.

"Joe Rogan is famous because of the types of people he has had on his podcast in the past and he prides himself on having a variety of guests, including objectionable ones like Jordan Peterson," he says.

The whip has been cracked on Spotify, it was time for it to act

Spotify On Galaxy Z Flip 3 Galaxy Buds Pro

Source: Andrew Myrick / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Andrew Myrick / Android Central)

Cross says that Spotify has been forced to act, especially now because of many concerned voices.

"Their stock price and market cap have dropped since the beginning of the year and they're due to give a financial statement on Wednesday. They had to do something now in an attempt to mollify shareholders," he says.

Levy agrees and adds that Spotify likely wasn't paying attention to investors, who have been battering share prices in the interim, while it was crafting a response to protect their top podcaster.

"What started as a simple, pragmatic decision to protect their top podcaster at all costs has devolved into a brand-killing, value-sapping mess that won't be easily cleaned up. The chaos now that surrounds the company could have been avoided had it recognized the risks of being perceived as not doing enough to address misinformation on its platform, and forgiving those who cross ethical lines a free pass to do so," he says.

Despite the controversy, KeyBanc analyst Justin Patterson writes in a note that he "finds some comfort" in Spotify's fast-growing sales from advertising. Citi analyst Jason Bazinet made similar comments to investors.

Shruti Shekar
Managing Editor

Shruti Shekar is Android Central's managing editor. She was born in India, brought up in Singapore, but now lives in Toronto and couldn't be happier. She started her journalism career as a political reporter in Ottawa, Canada's capital, and then made her foray into tech journalism at MobileSyrup and most recently at Yahoo Finance Canada. When work isn't on her mind, she loves working out, reading thrillers, watching the Raptors, and planning what she's going to eat the next day.

  • So Joe Rogan, who is a Sanders supporter of all things and pro vaccine, isn't allowed to interview anyone with a view that doesn't agree with Sanders, Biden, the CDC or the MSM. And Neil Young who, in a snit, decided to pull his music because censoring those with an opposing opinion is his choice, even though in his initial statement he claimed he wasn't trying to censor anyone, this was just his opinion, should carry more weight than anyone else's. Whatever happened to the old adage, if you don't want to listen to something/someone, turn it off? I'm not pro one or the other here. I'm pro freedom of speech, not censoring anyone for their viewpoint unless they're standing in front of me with a loaded gun maybe but the cancel culture has decided 'agree with me or you're gone' and that's just wrong.
  • No that's now what Rogan isn't allowed to do. Nothing is being cancelled Mr Wokephobia. Read the article, not just the headline ;). Spotify are putting up advisory warnings when Covid-19 is discussed. They're not stopping Rogan from interviewing antivaxxers. But given how controversial antivaxxers are, it's fair to at least place advisory warnings so viewers can choose to listen to make their own minds up. It's not about not listening, but being aware people in such positions will have young viewers, viewers who may believe everything they listen to/read. It's appropriate they're made aware what they're hearing is an opinion. You may have missed it's a major issue on social platforms. Opinion phrased as fact. Did you hear about Nicki Minaj claim her cousin took a Covid-19 vaccination and it caused his testicles to enlarge? She didn't get that from a doctor, people believe that nonsense. It's not as if scientists are on the fence over vaccination. Free speech has a limit too. If I said "Kill Americans" and someone did. That would be taking free speech to far, right? Besides your free speech isn't being hindered anyway.
  • Actually, I started reading about this controversy several days ago. Maybe you're behind the times. This is just the latest in what's been going on so perhaps you're going back to the day it all started would be a good thing. Young originally wanted Rogan pulled. His original comment was "They can have Neil Young or Rogan. Not both." Try keeping up. Have we become a people now where every little thing needs some kind of warning? Are we no longer capable of making our own decisions in life anymore that we have to have someone lead us by the nose? Listen to this at your own peril! Don't eat that, you might live a day less than if you hadn't! And maybe you should do a little research on Dr. Malone. You might be surprised, since he's one of the actual scientists who worked originally on the mRNA delivery method. But what do I know? I'm just a housewife from Michigan.
  • It's like you completely ignored the contents of their post and then replied.
  • It's like you completely ignored the contents of my replies, and then replied...
  • We must goose-step with the establishment elite. Failing that, YOU will be called a heretic!
    You think you can listen to 2nd and 3rd opinions regarding your health care???
    How DARE you!
  • Don't even get me started on Dr. Malone. He claims a lot of BS like he started MRNA which is BS. I will provide you proof that he is full of crap.
  • Looking at the 3rd world levels of vaccination uptake in the States, the answer to that attempted rhetorical question is: Yes.
    If you're too stubborn to accept basic science and facts, mostly by listening to click-baiting liars like this guy, the rest will have to step in and tell you to grow up.
  • I caught it from a vaccinated person (so they caught, got sick, and transmitted it to me).... no big deal, it was an easy cold and now I have ACTUAL antibodies.
    Strange that personal health care decisions have become offensive to those who are religiously emotional about such things.
  • Yeah, that is indeed the fake news your deplorable kind feeds on. Ignore the hospitalisation numbers to justify your stupid.
    I don't think artists will stop pressuring Spotify until people like Rogan are gone or buried under a ton of annoying facts.
  • Regarding antivaxxers, if you are referring to Malone he and his wife are fully vaccinated.
  • If you would've paid attention in Jr. High Civics class, you'd know Freedom of Speech ONLY applies to the government - not to a private company. If you violate the company's ToS, they have every right to boot your ass from it. You agree to those terms when you sign up. Also, vaccine effectiveness has everything to do with evidence based on science, NOT Biden's views. There's no "both sides" to the scientific effectiveness of vaccines. Nobody should have to listen to some former game show host spreading misinformation about vaccines when he has NO training/education in epidemiology.
  • Clearly you haven't paid attention either. The problem comes when these "private companies" are doing things at the behest of the government. When you have the president and his minister of propaganda ... er press secretary calling for people to be censored, that is a HUGE problem not matter where you stand. These companies are becoming an arm of the government by enforcing things the government itself legally can't do. That's like the cops sending a private citizen in to collect evidence they can't get because they can't get a warrant to get it. That evidence becomes inadmissable. If they do it to someone you don't like or agree with, they can do it to you too - especially if someone comes into power decides they don't like what you have to say. And you clearly don't know how science works, chief. Science is never settled and is meant to be questioned and challenged constantly. If an idea is sound, it will withstand scrutiny. The experimentation provided to the community will be repeatable and other scientists will be able to verify the outcome. Right now, science isn't science. It's a religion. People say "trust the science" when it supports their position. The problem is they're censoring dissenting opinion and calling it misinformation. We keep hearing "there's consensus" and "scientists agree ..." Well, all scientists will end up agreeing when the ones who don't - and have evidence to back their claims - are censored. Remember, there was a lot of "settled science" and "consensus" throughout history. It was settled science the earth was flat. It was settled science that the sun revolved around the earth. It was settled science that disease was spread by miasma. Bloodletting was a sound medical practice. And so forth. It wasn't until there was further study and these ideas were challenged that we found out they were wrong. Many of the people who challenged the ideas were ridiculed, persecuted, and even arrested. I guess things haven't changed much. And another thing that's not considered isn't considered is that, in addition to evidence questioning things happening in this pandemic, is that people are seeing things with their own eyes. People know and see friends and family that have had adverse reactions to vaxxes - some of which have either died or were permanently injured or disabled. People know and have seen friends and family that have gotten Covid despite having been vaxxed and have gotten boosters. People know and see friends and family that have died because the current treatment protocols have shown to be ineffective. And when you see how governments around the world are reacting to the pandemic with very heavy hands, and they, along with the media are misrepresenting facts and events, it's not hard to see why people are becoming more and more skeptical. Rogan talks to a lot of people from both sides. He supports Bernie - something no conservative would do. He interviews experts and asks questions, shares what he learns. And yes, there are experts that don't agree with what's going on. The listener is left to decide what to think. I don't see why that's such a crime. This "misinformation" is a smokescreen for smashing free speech and dissent. Who determines what qualifies as misinformation? What if the people who think they're right are actually wrong? Will they be silenced if/when new evidence comes to light that they're wrong? Or will they suppress that evidence to keep that story alive? We're living in very dangerous times, and it's really sad to see so many are willing to embrace an Orwellian future. Be careful what you wish for.
  • Superguy25, perfectly said and spelled out. Just have a look at the amount of misinformation from the last 2 years, that is now fact.
  • Given how many artists say the fees they get are so low, you'd think they'd do this to increase pay outs too.
  • The year 2014 says hello
  • Information is labeled disinformation when it goes against the dictatorship's propaganda lines. Science is not a one track line of information, science is questioned and debated.
  • Problem with what you stated is too many people listen to brain dead politicians or idiots on TV. Science is science and it is NEVER settled. Just read the forum on this site about the vaccination to see some great sheep group think.
  • Time to start censoring Android central since they like censoring peoples views who disagree with. Stay woke AC
  • Where are the misinformation warnings on Mainstream news after 5 years of Russian collusion ********?
  • Amen. They still are infatuated with the previous admin.
  • Were it not for people like Joe Rogan, we would never hear points of view other than what is being pushed by specific political parties and the associated media. A person with a well rounded idea set will review many viewpoints and sources of information. This idea that society must only listen to or present one 'accepted' point of view is both insulting and dangerous. I now see where this site stands and it is on the dangerous path of censorship and control.
  • What a crap article. And to insinuate that stock prices of Spotify are somehow related to this latest woke issue is just plain ridiculous. So are they going to add warning to podcasts about "ghosts" or "UFO's" since well, neither can be proved as real or fake news. I have to laugh how Neil sings "Kepp on rockin in the free world!" yet he wants America to cancel people that don't think like or the government. None of these woke has-been's will be missed on Spotify.
  • He's from Canada.
  • Canada is in America, as is The United States. Check your geography.
  • Um, no, it's a sovereign state...
    One that geographicallly sits next to the USA, it's not part of the USA.
    It's part of the continent of North America, which the USA is part of too.
  • That's literally what Bob said.
  • I'm just curious. How come no one ever raised hell about Art Bell?
  • Seriously worried for the US, as evidenced time & time again by comments on the internet, & the behaviour of many since the last election. Tnx to deep polarisation & politicisation, which has no useful part in any of the issues they've been conveniently entangled with, vast swathes of folks here, are totally incapable of thinking truly objectively & impartially. The way 'politics' is now done here, has become alarmingly destructive longer term, to what is [for now] a democratic & pluralistic society.
  • Oh, AC...stay in your lane, please. I don't come hear for political commentary.
  • Because some old hippie wants to censor people now AndroidCentral thinks that's okay! Remember when they wanted to censor people for saying the virus came from a lab, or saying the vaccine prevented you from getting it again, so let's just keep censoring people, oh wait now they say the virus did come from the lab and the vaccine does not stop you from getting it again. If Spotify wants to go along with this then I will cancel Spotify.
  • Advisories are like cheap Bandaids ... ineffective wastes of time. And far too many people these days seem unaware of what "freedom of speech" is. Hint: Spotify is not government, and COVID misinformation is not political speech.
  • Apparently you didn't get the memo: Anything with left political leanings is freedom of speech. Anything with right political leanings is misinformation.
  • Getting really tired of this sites BS propaganda articles trying to spin crap.
    I come here for tech news not your opinions and your own brand of misinformation.
    A few more of these articles and I guess I will just stop coming here.
  • I think the author leans toward being a young woke left "progressive" type.
  • so AC is now the stenographer for our political "betters"? pure, lazy screed.
  • This comments section has such delicious babyrage!
  • Authors lives in Canada. Nuff said. Person is used to authoritarian govt.
  • Who decides what is "misinformation"? As far as I'm concerned, the government has done its share of spreading misinformation. If Rogan is spreading misinformation then go on the record and debate it and present the "truth". It's funny how the doctors of the FLCCC have invited Fauci, Wallensky, et. al. to come in and publicly discuss issues but they never show up.
  • Then you better find a doctor that subscribe to your politics and religion, that way you will always get medical care and advice that you can agree with and believe in. Don’t believe in any doctors with a valid medical license unless they are a registered RepubliKKKans who practice medicine based on the teaching of the Bible.
    And be sure to get medical advice via Facebook’s Dr QAnon, he works full time cleaning restrooms at Walmart.
  • Follow the money first...
    -Blackstone announces appointment of Jeffrey B. Kindler, Former Chairman and CEO of Pfizer, as senior advisor. (Aug 2020)
    -Neil Young sells 50% of entire song catalogue rights to Hipgnosis (Jan 2021)
    -Blackstone & Hipgnosis Song Management launch $1 billion partnership to invest in songs, recorded music, music IP and royalties. (Oct 2021)
    -Neil Young demands Spotify remove his music over Joe Rogan vaccine "misinformation" (Jan 2022)
  • Bingo! I hate these sites pushing this one sided political garbage!
  • The day will come when the woke mob comes after your platform. You may think different then.
  • As long we march perfectly with their correct orthodoxy, we don't have to worry about the buzzkills crashing our party!
    If Joe Rogan wasn't such a valuable asset, he would have been long gone. Honest, happy, curious interviews of the "wrong people" is dangerous these days.
  • sorry, but this article is total unabashed bovine fecal matter
  • I thought Android Central readers were intelligent and rational. Apparently not.
  • Probably not a good idea to start making assumptions.
    If you are going to insist on doing it at least give some rational for it.
  • Rude. There are plenty of smart folks on here.
  • "I thought Android Central readers were intelligent and rational sheep." Fixed it for you; say what you mean.
  • AC- I visit the site to escape the usual crap...don't jump in. keep out of the BS...please.
  • I just blocked on my Google news feed. I didn't like their being allowed to express their viewpoint.
    Looks like I can crack the whip, too!
  • Use an ad blocker and consume the content for free.
  • This is a horrendous take. The author of this post hasn't ever heard the podcast or is acting in bad faith. Joe Rogan says very frequently that he doesn't know what he's talking about and in his own words "...just an ape" shooting the sht.
    He's literally said what he said on his 'response' multiple times on his podcast in the past. He's been adding disclaimers himself for years lol. The only whip being cracked is by public that is finally seeing how crazy it is to try to censor or control speech. Android Central should be better than this and avoid these horrendous anti-free speech takes.
    The arbitror of truth should always be the listener. None of this 'argument from authority'. Carl Sagan must be turning in his grave. Science is about the process of always questioning the accepted stance of the day and if it can't withstand it and all criticism, then it was a shaky stance. People would benefit from watching Carl Sagan's original Cosmos series.
  • Free Speech only applies to the government, not to private streaming platforms. 🤦
  • Your reply is not relevant to my statement. The concept of free speech isn't exclusive to legality or any one country or any one government. I know I'm just the mere insignificant product of the New York public school system in the 80's, but even I learned that freedom of speech is a much larger concept and that the Universe doesn't revolve around our country or our laws here. A lot of the literature on free speech has more to do with social contracts, ethics and interactions with each other. Not the 'government' or 'law' .
  • Expect the Legions of Trumptards to sign up for Spotify’s paid tier as a show of support. MAGA!!! FreeDUMB!!!
  • Idiot. LGB FJB
  • Well those same people are listening to people like Joe Rogan and dying from COVID just to own the libs. Do you feel owned? I don't.
  • Neil Young: What is the voice of irrelevance, for $200, Alex.
  • Its not spotify's job to do anything more than provide a platform for the service/content. As to the content it delivers? Its up to us to "change the channel". Dont listen. Shut it off. Or listen and support it. I dont care. What matters is people stop being offended by everything and re-learn or de-propagandize themselves to inundation of bull-pucky. Lastly, watch out. This is just another distraction to divide folks. Its creating another opportunity for something.
    OH LOOK! Free Speech (Content) warnings on Spotify Podcasts now. Its just the top of ski slope.
  • Uh, Spotify has a Terms of Service they aren't even following themselves. Yes it is Spotify's job to moderate their own platform.
  • Now on another article, you all are now showing how to cancel spotify. And you not allowing comments on it. This site should be ashamed of itself. It's just political with this site now. Pathetic.
  • How are vaccines political? The only reason they're political is because right wing babies made them political.
  • And idiots like Brandon and Fauci and all their dim minions lied about masks, vaccines, boosters etc daily for many many months.
  • Right wing made them political? Recall Biden and Harris while campaigning both said they would not take a vaccine developed under Trump. The boffoons were first in line.
  • They said they wouldn't take a vaccine based on Trump recommending it. Neither would I. I wouldn't take anything because Gwyneth Paltrow recommended it either. I try to get my medical advice from medical professionals, not politicians and celebrities.
  • Not sure why comments are opened up for this type of article. Don't care about Joe Schmoe's opinion on covid vaccines.
  • Yeah, that's right. Your freedom of speech ends when you disagree with me. Where do you think we are, America?
  • Nice to see the Spotify CEO sticking with Joe and no plans to "cancel" him. FJB! LGB!