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Spotify vows to combat Covid misinformation after top artists quit platform

Swedish music streaming giant Spotify has responded to criticism after artists including Neil Young pulled their songs from the platform in protest at misinformation.

Spotify vows to combat Covid misinformation after top artists quit platform
Spotify CEO Daniel Ek. Photo: Lars Pehrson/SvD/TT

The artists, also including Joni Mitchell, last week demanded that Spotify remove their music or drop podcaster Joe Rogan after a call from medical professionals to prevent Rogan from promoting “several falsehoods about Covid-19 vaccines”.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have also flagged concerns over misinformation on Spotify, but reiterated their commitment to continue using it to publish their content.

“We are working to add a content advisory to any podcast episode that includes a discussion about Covid-19,” Spotify CEO Daniel Ek said in a statement.

“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.”

In addition, Ek said the company would publish its “Platform Rules”, which include guidelines for creators on what Spotify labels “dangerous” and “deceptive” content.

The “new effort to combat misinformation” would roll out in the next few days, he added.

Rogan, 54, has discouraged vaccination in young people and promoted the off-label use of the anti-parasitic drug ivermectin to treat the virus.

$100 million deal

The podcaster, who has a $100 million multi-year exclusive deal with Spotify, was kept on, and the company complied with Young’s demand and started removing his catalogue of songs.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, meanwhile, said they were “committed to continuing” their lucrative content deal despite “concerns” over misinformation.

“We have continued to express our concerns to Spotify to ensure changes to its platform are made to help address this public health crisis,” a spokesperson for Archewell, the Duke and Duchess’ organisation, said in a statement.

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

In a video posted on his Instagram account, Rogan expressed disappointment that Young and Mitchell had pulled their music from Spotify, and sought to explain why his podcast had come under fire.

He cited two episodes in particular, during which he interviewed a cardiologist, and a virologist who had worked on mRNA technology, the same method used to make several Covid-19 vaccines.

“They have an opinion that’s different from the mainstream narrative. I wanted to hear what their opinion is,” Rogan said.

Rather than spreading misinformation, Rogan insisted he was “interested in telling the truth, I’m interested in finding out what the truth is, and I’m interested in having interesting conversations with people that have differing opinions”.

He also praised Spotify’s decision to add a content advisory to coronavirus-related episodes of any podcast.

‘Regret’

Spotify voiced “regret” over Young’s move but cited a need to balance “both safety for listeners and freedom for creators”.

Spotify’s move drew applause online from organisations including video-streaming platform Rumble, which credited the Swedish company with “defending creators” and standing “up for free speech”.

But Young, 76, also garnered wide praise for taking a stand, including from the World Health Organization chief. The musician also urged fellow artists to follow his lead, and calls for boycotts and cancelled subscriptions flourished on social media.

In recent years, online media titans including Facebook and YouTube have come under fire for allowing conspiracy theorists to spread their views. But despite its explosive growth, podcasting has largely flown under the radar.

Article by AFP’s Johannes Ledel

Member comments

  1. Im very happy that Spotify didnt silence the opinion of world renowned medical experts because two old washed up rock stars from the 1960’s said soo.

    I bet Blackstone are upset right now, being that they bought half of Youngs catalogue only last year for 150M USD and now will loose a massive amount of royalities.

    ‘Keep on rockin in the free world’ …..yeah right!

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BUSINESS

Spotify subscriber growth hampered by Russia exit

On Wedneday, Swedish music streaming giant Spotify reported a lower than expected growth in paying subscribers in the first quarter, citing its exit from Russia.

Spotify subscriber growth hampered by Russia exit

Following the company’s publication of its first quarter earnings, shares in the streaming service were down over 11 percent on the New York stock-exchange, where the company is listed.

Spotify reported that at the end of March it had 182 million paying subscribers, a 15-percent increase compared to a year earlier, but short of its estimated 183 million.

Meanwhile, analysts had projected the number to hit 187 million. “While this is slightly below our guidance, after excluding the involuntary churn of approximately 1.5 million subscribers as a result of our exit from Russia, growth was above expectations and aided by outperformance in Latin America and Europe,” the group said in a statement.

Like many Western companies, Spotify suspended operations in Russia after Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, a withdrawal that was finalised on April 11.

By the end of next quarter, the company, which was founded in Sweden, hopes to have 187 million paying users while anticipating a loss of another 600,000 subscribers in Russia.

On the other hand, Spotify did not specify any financial impact resulting from a controversy involving the popular podcast of stand-up comedian and sports commentator Joe Rogan.

Rogan was accused of spreading misinformation about Covid-19 and discouraging Covid-19 vaccinations for young people, sparking artists, including Neil Young and Joni Mitchell, to call for boycotts against the service.

The total number of monthly users, free and paying, of the platform came in at 422 million in the first quarter, above the group’s expectations and in line with that of Wall Street analysts.

Spotify said a service outage in March forced users who no longer had access to their accounts to create new ones and without this artificial increase, monthly active users would have totalled 419 million.

Revenue was $2.7 billion, the vast majority from paying subscribers and slightly below market forecasts, while net profit was $131 million.

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