Student Opinion: Spotify Should Take Down COVID Misinformation

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By Kayla Ngai

 

Should Spotify be able to ban content on their platform? Joe Rogan, a podcaster on Spotify, is becoming notorious for spreading misinformation about the coronavirus and vaccinations. This has sparked complaints about the app, as people are holding Spotify responsible for not censoring Rogan’s material. Because of many podcasters like Rogan relaying false information, this incited a debate over whether these creators should be banned from the Spotify platform altogether. I believe that misinformation should be taken down from Spotify especially if the false news spreading could potentially be dangerous. 

Many doctors have voiced their opinions against Rogan and his podcast. For instance, Katrine Wallace, an epidemiologist at University of Illinois Chicago School of Public Health, called Rogan “a menace to public health.” His podcast is detrimental to the community and would inhibit our chances of moving on from the coronavirus. In addition to sharing misinformation, Rogan has been cited discouraging younger people from receiving the vaccine (episode from April 23, 2021). Instead, Rogan promoted Ivermectin — a drug that is not approved by the FDA for both treating and preventing the coronavirus, with little evidence in proving its overall effectiveness. 

Multiple celebrities have also come forward to state their stance on the matter. Prince Harry of Wales and Meghan Markle, the former Duke and Duchess of Sussex, have conveyed their feelings of unease about the situation given that they host a podcast on Spotify. They stated, “We have continued to express our concerns to Spotify to ensure changes to its platform are made to help address this public health crisis.” Additionally, many artists have severed their partnership with Spotify to object to the platform’s lack of action with Joe Rogan’s podcast. Among these singers are Neil Young and Joni Mitchell. 

On January 30th, Daniel Ek, the CEO of Spotify responded to the outcries. Although he did not explicitly name Joe Rogan, Ek acknowledged: “We know we have a critical role to play in supporting creator expression while balancing it with the safety of our users.” He brought up the question of freedom of expression and censorship, mentioning that there is content on Spotify that he “disagree[s] with strongly.” However, I feel that misinformation about the coronavirus and all related material is not a matter of opinion. One can not disagree or agree with facts. Thus, some information on Spotify should be removed for the good of the public. 

Ek laid out the deficiencies of the platform. First, according to him, Spotify does not lay out the platform rules clearly. Second, they have not been doing a sufficient job in making sure accurate information about the pandemic is being spread. I agree with Ek in that Spotify has been lacking in their mission as a service that allows the general public to receive information. They have not been enforcing their guidelines and failed to recognize the harm of false COVID news sooner. 

However, to remedy their mistakes, Spotify published their “long-standing platform rules” which come in a variety of languages to make their rules more accessible to a wider audience of creators. They are working on ways to highlight terms, stressing that creators should take accountability for their actions. 

Another remedy Spotify is installing is the addition of advisory warnings to podcast episodes containing information about the coronavirus. The platform is also dedicating a COVID-19 Hub to host up-to-date information about the pandemic for viewers. 

Although I believe that freedom of speech is very important, there should be a line drawn for misinformation that risks public health. During our current pandemic, it has become important to crack down on the spread of fake news in the media. People are constantly dying and getting sick. Thus, when there is false information being spread, it does not benefit our communities and world in any way. Misinformation is dangerous and can influence people to take harmful actions. Remember when former President Trump advised everyone to inject bleach as a solution against the coronavirus? To state it bluntly, if one were to have followed him, they would most likely be dead. 

I think Spotify is heading in the right direction and is doing a good job in trying to mediate the false news. However, they should be more direct and officially remove some podcast episodes that air fake information. Furthermore, we ourselves need to be wary of the content we are consuming and learn how to rely on credible sources. This situation should motivate and prompt other streaming platforms and social media to take further actions in limiting the spread of fake information. 

 

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About The Author

Jordan Varney received a masters from UC Davis in Psychology and a B.S. in Computer Science from Harvey Mudd. Varney is editor in chief of the Vanguard at UC Davis.

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29 thoughts on “Student Opinion: Spotify Should Take Down COVID Misinformation”

  1. Ron Oertel

    I just commented on this issue in the other article, when this article popped up.  I’ll just go ahead and paste my comment, below:

    Ron Oertel February 10, 2022 at 10:51 am

    I would also say that I’m increasingly-concerned about the clamping down of “misinformation” by social media companies.  And sometimes, the clamping-down of political discourse.

    If anything, that also increases overall “suspicion”. As with government attempts to “control” information, it tends to backfire and leads to further division.

    If we can’t allow some yahoo to say that vaccines don’t work, is the whole thing really that fragile?

    And actually, that goes for everything – including global warming. (Hell, Trump said that it would cool down soon, but did that really change beliefs in mass? Not to mention evidence?) Personally, I found it kind of entertaining.

  2. Ron Oertel

    Misinformation is dangerous and can influence people to take harmful actions. Remember when former President Trump advised everyone to inject bleach as a solution against the coronavirus? To state it bluntly, if one were to have followed him, they would most likely be dead. 

    I don’t believe he directly advised anyone to do this.  As such, this claim is “misinformation”, itself. One has to refer to his actual words, not someone’s politically-driven, subsequent interpretation.

    Did anyone actually do so?  And if so, might that be an example of Darwinism at work?

    1. Keith Olson

      I don’t believe he directly advised anyone to do this.  As such, this claim is “misinformation”, itself. One has to refer to his actual words, not someone’s politically-driven, subsequent interpretation.

      Well said Ron, well said…

  3. Alan Miller

    I have never disagreed with an article more than this one.

    Joe Rogan has people on and he talks to them.  That is America!  We used to have books that had ‘misinformation’.  We didn’t ban them.  Now there are people trying to ban the modern information sources.

    Joe Rogan has on people who look at the pandemic from all different angles.  The ones focused on are a tiny percentage of episodes.  He just lets people talk.  He doesn’t promote, he asks questions.  He often says he’s just curious.  He also has pointed at specific interviews where ideas from people he interviewed months ago were considered ‘misinformation’, and are now considered fact.  If information ‘fact’ changes, why hide ideas?

    Joe Rogan mostly talks about other topics.  This is all political.  It’s the establishment being threatened by incredibly successful independent media personalities like Rogan.  People are moving away from CNN and MSNBC in droves, especially without the scary scary Trump to deomonize. The progressives trying to ban people like Rogan are unknowing tools of the crumbling media aristocracy.

    Rogan is not a conservative.  He’s more like me, a bit leftish, a bit rightish, curious, seeking.  I don’t want some progressive cancellation büttplüg deciding for me what I can hear.  What is more dangerous than so-called ‘misinformtion’ ?  Someone deciding for me for what I can hear!

  4. Rick Entrikin

    Rogan is not a conservative.  He’s more like me, a bit leftish, a bit rightish, curious, seeking.  I don’t want some progressive cancellation büttplüg deciding for me what I can hear.  What is more dangerous than so-called ‘misinformtion’ ?  Someone deciding for me for what I can hear!

    Couldn’t agree more, Alan.   The people calling for censorship of materials that don’t follow some government-constructed narrative need an immersive course in world history.   Or maybe just a small dose of “Be careful what you wish for.”

     

    1. Keith Olson

      Even if Rogan was conservative he still has the right to have his views, interview his guests and have a show.  It seems as if all this cancelling out is happening mostly to those with conservative viewpoints.  It needs to stop.

      1. Bill Marshall

        If I build a soapbox, it is my exclusive privilege to say who can stand on it.   Same with Spotify, Facebook, Twitter, etc.

        It is also my privilege to support or boycott anyone who builds a soapbox where folk are allowed to spout truth, misinformation, outright lies, love or hate.

        Spotify has a decision to make… their decision… their privilege… their consequences… their opportunity, their risk.

        Facebook and Twitter have made decisions to limit or ban users… this is appropriate, and within THEIR rights.

        Funny how some conservatives are OK banning/limiting bullying via media, if the one being bullied is a conservative… yet it gets their dander up if one of ‘theirs’ is limited/banned … liberals/progressives, pretty much exactly the same…

        1. Alan Miller

          WM, there are plenty who are arguing these companies are a combination of utilities/monopolies.  They are communication today.  We just haven’t caught up to that fact yet.

          What concerns me isn’t Rogan.  He just got offered $100 million to change platforms (and that doesn’t cover what he’s worth).  Rogan himself will be fine.  It’s the smaller guys we don’t hear about — at least don’t become national stories — who get cancelled.  A little pressure and they are gone.  I’m rooting for them to survive.

  5. Keith Olson

    Almost all venues, news sources or blogs for that matter have some sort of false reporting or misinformation from time to time.  As an example not too long ago the Vanguard itself posted a story containing false accusations/misinformation for which it was called out for.  Misinformation can also be the political bias in what is not published as much as what is published.

    1. Bill Marshall

      Almost all venues, news sources or blogs for that matter have some sort of false reporting or misinformation from time to time.

      1) name one venues, news sources, etc. NEVER have some sort of false reporting or misinformation

      2) you have previously asserted that some ‘news sources or blogs for that matter have some sort of false reporting or misinformation most of the time’.

      1. Keith Olson

        Read what I wrote BM, “from time to time.”

        Once again, here you go projecting and putting words in people’s mouths.

        You have been asked repeatedly to stop doing this by more commenters than just me.

  6. Ron Oertel

    Furthermore, we ourselves need to be wary of the content we are consuming and learn how to rely on credible sources.

    It would be interesting to hear David’s (or others’) thoughts regarding how the Vanguard fits into this.

  7. Don Shor

    Should Spotify be able to ban content on their platform? 

    Of course they should. Spotify is a private company. Rogan has a right to broadcast whatever he likes, but they have no obligation to provide him a platform. Artists who are on Spotify have every right to pull their products (assuming they still own and control their own content) in response to Rogan’s persistent misinformation. The author is not calling for Spotify to be forced to remove dangerous and misleading content. The call is for the company to do it voluntarily:

    However, they should be more direct and officially remove some podcast episodes that air fake information.

    Individuals who repeatedly post dangerous and misleading content on social media run the risk of having their privileges to post on those platforms removed. They can start their own platforms if they so desire.

    1. Alan Miller

      Individuals who repeatedly post dangerous and misleading content on social media run the risk of having their privileges to post on those platforms removed.

      Doubt that’s the outcome for Rogan, himself.

      They can start their own platforms if they so desire.

      This has happened.

      My issue isn’t so much with the force vs. volunteer thing, it’s the smearing of Rogan for political/financial ends — from the big boys.   Listen to any random podcast.  You won’t find you’ve tuned into the devil.  I actually never heard of him before this, but now I’m a smallish fan.   My bet is all this calling for censorship just raises his value.

  8. Ron Oertel

    Joe Rogan says he has no plans to leave Spotify in favor of Rumble, an online video platform that has become popular among right-wing creators.

    “No, Spotify has hung in with me, inexplicably, let’s see what happens,” he told a crowd during a recent standup show, per the Hollywood Reporter.

    It’s not “inexplicable”:

    Rumble made headlines this month after it offered Rogan $100 million to move theJoe Rogan Experience podcast from Spotify—which signed him for the same amount in 2020—to its own platform.

    According to Forbes, theJoe Rogan Experienceattracts an estimated 11 million people per episode, making it Spotify’s most popular show.

    I know that to most people, there’s no context where a white person is ever allowed to say that word, never mind publicly on a podcast. And I agree with that now,” Rogan said in the video. “But for a long time when I would bring that word up, like if it would come up in conversation, instead of saying ‘the N-word’ I would just say the word. I thought as long as it was in context, people would understand what I was doing.”

    They do understand, but the bolded sentence above notes the real reason.

    I was just watching a Matt Walsh video last night, in which he described this as “fragility”.  (Something like that.)  As I recall, he wasn’t too happy with such apologies, and notes that such apologies never satisfy “the mob”, regardless.  And I kind of see that point, these days.

    Fortunately, YouTube hasn’t taken down Matt Walsh videos, so far.  If nothing else, the guy displays a pretty good sense of self-deprecating humor at times. I find him much more pleasant to watch than Ben Shapiro, though the latter also puts forth sound “counter” arguments regarding these issues.

     

    https://www.complex.com/pop-culture/joe-rogan-responds-100-million-dollar-podcast-offer-right-wing-platform-rumble

  9. Robb Davis

    The opening question of this OPINION piece was:

    Should Spotify be able to ban content on their platform?

    Yes, clearly, Spotify, as a private company should be able to do whatever it wants about the content (as long as it abides by the terms of music and other content contracts).  What is controversial about this?

    Spotify can choose its content.  It can choose to create space for those who promote misinformation.  It can choose to have standards that limit or ban the promotion of misinformation.  It can choose to do nothing.

    Users of the service can demand whatever they want.  They can also vote their wallets and cancel if they want to.  Those with content on Spotify can remove it if they want to and are able (contractually). They can encourage people to stop listening to Spotify.

    People can go on other platforms and verbally attack Rogan, call him names, demand he stop, and threaten to stop listening to him.

    Let me do that now: Joe Rogan is dangerous.  He does not care about the health and well-being of people and is a blight on public discourse.  He engages in behavior antithetical to the healthy exchange of ideas and pursues puerile topics with little concern for its consequences.  Spotify should develop standards to reduce the negative impact of his approach to “entertainment.”  I will never subscribe to Spotify as long as they give him the space to spout destructive untruths.

    There, I did it!  Perfectly within my rights.  Two more points: 1) Clearly Spotify does not care about my opinion; 2) Clearly Joe Rogan does not care about my opinion of him.  But I will continue to do what I can to counter what he is doing and I will point out the utter nonsense of what he too frequently says.  That is my right and I will live my life in hopes that Joe Rogan will go away and not be replaced.

    1. Ron Oertel

      What is controversial about this?

      Probably depends upon how much of a monopoly the likes of Spotify, Facebook, YouTube, Tik-Tok, etc., control.

      Assuming that they all “think together”. Of course, Tik Tok might be a little different, due to their ties to China.

      I never heard of Rumble, until digging up the article above.  Then again, I guess they do have $100 million at their disposal.

      In my opinion, Showtime is promoting harmful points of view.  But, I don’t think it should be censored. And as you noted, they wouldn’t care about “my” opinion, regardless.

      Ultimately, those who have the money seem to have no problem getting “their” message across.

       

    2. Keith Olson

      Let me do that now: Joe Rogan is dangerous.  He does not care about the health and well-being of people and is a blight on public discourse.  He engages in behavior antithetical to the healthy exchange of ideas and pursues puerile topics with little concern for its consequences.  Spotify should develop standards to reduce the negative impact of his approach to “entertainment.”  I will never subscribe to Spotify as long as they give him the space to spout destructive untruths.

      So Robb, do you listen to Joe Rogan, do you follow him?

      Or are you making these allegations based on what others have to say about him?

      And if you say you do listen to him why do you do so if you don’t like him?

      And as Ron stated here, there are many people who pursue puerile topics with little concern for its consequences.  Should they all be cancelled too?  Where does it end?

  10. Ron Oertel

    $100 million?  Did we say $100 million?

    Try $200 million?

    Spotify is reportedly paying Joe Rogan $200 million, double what was previously known (msn.com)

    So apparently, cancel culture isn’t as effective as it might first seem.

    Or, maybe it’s only effective against the “Mr. Pickles” of the world. In other words, normal everyday schmoes, dependent upon small business franchises or jobs at employers who care about such things. Against them, it’s plenty-effective so far.

  11. Ron Oertel

    Multiple celebrities have also come forward to state their stance on the matter. Prince Harry of Wales and Meghan Markle, the former Duke and Duchess of Sussex, have conveyed their feelings of unease about the situation given that they host a podcast on Spotify.

    Consistently the “go-to” couple to establish our collective moral compass regarding such issues. 🙂

    In other words, “what would Harry and Meghan do”? (I wonder how much they get paid by Spotify, for that matter.)

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