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Spotify to link virus content to Covid facts after disinformation row

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Neil Young demanded Spotify remove his music or drop podcaster Joe Rogan after a call from medical professionals to prevent Rogan from promoting 'several falsehoods about Covid-19 vaccines'./AFP
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Jan 31, 2022 - 03:00 AM

STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN — Music streaming giant Spotify announced Sunday that it would start guiding listeners of podcasts discussing Covid-19 to more information about the pandemic, following a row that saw artist Neil Young remove his music from the platform.

The move comes after artists, spearheaded by Neil Young, earlier this week demanded the streaming service 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’s platform, 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,” Ek said.

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 (90 million euros) multi-year exclusive deal with Spotify, was kept on, and Spotify complied with Young’s demand and started removing his catalogue of songs.

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

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

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

‘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.

“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,” Ek said.

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

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.

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