Spotify’s Joe Rogan Problem Isn’t Going Away

Stop me if you’ve heard this before:

A popular internet personality who is loved by millions for his reckless, anti-establishment comments, he has been the subject of a backlash after critics accused him of promoting dangerous misinformation.

The controversy surrounds the creator’s largest platform, which has rules prohibiting dangerous misinformation and is now under pressure to enforce it against one of its top-profile users.

Hoping to get out of the storm, the platform’s chief executive publishes a blog post about the importance of free speech, which refuses to punish violators but promises to introduce new features that promote high-quality information.

However, the reaction becomes intense. Civil rights groups organize boycotts. Advertisers pull their campaigns. Hashtag trends. Platform employees threaten to quit. Days later, the chief executive is forced to choose between excluding the popular creator – and face the wrath of his fans – or see him as the one who enables hypocritical and dangerous behavior.

If this scenario sounds familiar, it is because there has been a version of it on every major Internet media platform in the last half decade. Facebook and Alex Jones, Twitter and Donald Trump, YouTube and PewDiePie, Netflix and Dave Chappell: each major platform finds itself, at some point, trapped between this particular rock and hard space.

Now, it’s Spotify’s turn. Audio Giant to Mr. Rogan was accused of promoting Covid-19 misinformation on his show, including hosting a guest on Twitter for spreading false information about the Covid-19 vaccine. This month, a group of hundreds of medical experts urged Spotify to take action on the misinformation of Kovid-19, saying that Mr. Rogan had a “relative history” of promoting lies about the virus.

So far, the reaction cycle has been affecting most common notes. Critics have compared Shri’s snippets. Rogan’s interview with the stated rules of Spotify, which prohibits content that “promotes dangerously false or dangerously misleading material about Covid-19.” Two folk-rock legends, Neil Young and Johnny Mitchell, led the boycott, and last week Mr. Rogan. Brian Brown, another popular host, will follow soon and says that she will not release new episodes of her Spotify-exclusive podcast “until further notice”.

Daniel AK, chief executive of Spotify, published the required blog post on Sunday, defending the company’s commitment to free expression, saying “it is important to me that we do not take the position of content censors.” And when Spotify refused to take action against Mr. Rogan is committed to putting up advisory warnings on podcast episodes about Covid-19 and directing listeners to a center full of authentic health information.

Despite its surface similarity, Mr. Rogan’s Spotify standoff differs from other collisions between creators and tech platforms in some major ways.

For one, Spotify is not one of the many applications that Mr. Rogan’s podcast. The streaming service paid more than $ 100 million for the exclusive rights to “The Jo Rogan Experience” in 2020, making it a headline act for its growing podcast segment. Critics say the deal, aggressively Spotify is Mr. Rogan’s show, within its application, gives the company more responsibility than others for its show.

The second difference is who takes advantage in this conflict. YouTube, Twitter and Facebook are ad-supported businesses; If advertisers disagree with the moderation decisions, they can threaten to cause financial harm by pulling out their campaigns. (Another question is whether this boycott actually accomplishes anything.)

Spotify, by contrast, makes the most of its money from subscriptions, so it’s Mr. Unless Rogan has a wave of account cancellations. And how many Netflix subscribers seem to have canceled their subscriptions during last year’s dust-up with Mr. Chappelle, Spotify might take a breather on this front right now.

But Spotify has a different constituency to worry about: the stars. A leading music streaming service like Spotify needs popular hits in its library, which means that, in theory, musicians with sufficient firepower can push for change by simply threatening to remove their albums. (As one Viral tweet Last week he put it: “Taylor Swift could end Rogan with a single tweet on Spotify.”) In practice, it’s a little more complicated than that, because record labels, not musicians, generally control streaming rights. But it is still possible that if Mr. Young and Ms. While Mitchell’s move prompts more top musicians and / or labels to pull their songs off Spotify, it could be a real business risk for the company.

The third difference is Mr. Rogan himself. Unlike mr. Jones and other firebrands, he is primarily an interviewer, and most of the season has been in response to what his guests have said. It gives him a more plausible excuse to entertain fringe opinions, although critics have pointed out that Mr. Rogan’s His own statements about Kovid-19 But also full of suspicious information.

So, how Mr. Rogan’s backlash cycle ends? It’s hard to say.

One possibility is that it will end like Shree. Jones and Mr. Trump, whose behavior was so outrageous (and who continued to violate the rules even after being called) that Twitter and Facebook had no real option but to shut him down permanently.

Mr. Rogan could double down on the misinformation of the Covid-19, daring Spotify to de-platform it and cast himself as a “victim of the waking mob”, censoring him for telling so many disturbing truths. She could opt out of her Spotify deal and return to YouTube and other platforms that took her show. (He could also go on a right-wing social network like Getter or Parlor, but I’m guessing he’ll like the audience.)

Or it could be that PewDiePie, the popular YouTube creator whose real name is Felix Kejelberg, did so after being accused of making anti-Semitic remarks. After being a hero for a while for right-wing reactionaries, Mr. Kejelberg apologized for his behavior, cleared his channel, and eventually returned to the goodwill of the platform.

Mr. Rogan can quietly accept surrender, protect his spotty deal, and back the covid-skeptical fringe in a way that does not cost his reputation as an anti-establishment. (The result seemed most likely on Sunday night, when Mr. Rogen posted a 10-minute Instagram video apologizing for his “out of control” show and promising to invite more mainstream experts to discuss the epidemic.)

The third option is that the whole controversy could be settled, as last year’s Mr. Chapel and Netflix, which began after accusing the comedian of making transphobic remarks during a special and ended days later, without any real consequences for anyone. But this result does not seem likely, as the boycott has begun and snowballing is taking place.

The relationship between media personalities and the networks that broadcast their work has always been strained. But in recent years it has become even more messy, as growth-hungry tech companies have started paying top stars directly for their content. These deals have made them look like old radio and TV stations – choosing popular acts, paying well for their work, assuming more responsibility for their output – and less like the neutral platform they claimed to be.

Relationships between companies and their users are also changing. Users of these services have learned by observing dozens of adverse cycles over the past few years that sufficient pressure can do almost anything to a tech company. They understand that companies’ rules are vague and corrective, and that what chief executives often want – no matter how high-minded they may be – is to stop people shouting at them. They also know that if a company does not act solely on the basis of audience complaints, there are other ways to turn on the heat.

Spotify may think it has gone through the worst of the Rogan reaction. But we know from recent history that what seems to be the end of content moderation controversy is often just a warm-up task.

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