US podcaster Joe Rogan has apologized following a backlash against COVID-19 misinformation on his program, while streaming giant Spotify, the platform on which "The Joe Rogan Experience" is aired, said on Sunday it would add a "content advisory" to any episode related to COVID-19.
Rogan, who has hosted COVID-19 skeptics on his podcast, has long attracted criticism for his views on the pandemic, vaccines and government mandates to curb the virus' spread.
He posted a nearly 10-minute video on Instagram Sunday night during which he apologized to Spotify for the backlash, and promised to "do my best in the future to balance things out."
"If I pissed you off, I'm sorry," Rogan said. "I will do my best to try to balance out these more controversial viewpoints with other people's perspectives so we can maybe find a better point of view."
Singer-songwriter Neil Young announced last week that he was removing his music from Spotify in protest against the COVID-19 misinformation broadcasted on the platform. Fellow singer Joni Mitchelland Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band guitarist, Nils Lofgren, then followed suit in solidarity with Young.
Content advisory in the works
Spotify CEO Daniel Ek said on Sunday that the streaming giant will add a content advisory to podcasts about the coronavirus pandemic.
The advisory will also lead people to a "dedicated COVID-19 Hub" that provides easy access to up-to-date scientific information on the pandemic, Ek said in a statement.
The new rules, set to take effect in coming days, are in response to controversy over Spotify's decision to continue streaming Joe Rogan's podcast episodes and instead remove Neil Young's music after the musician asked the platform to choose between them.
Joe Rogan, who has a massive following and a multimillion-dollar contract with the company, stirred controversy over his podcast. Rogan interviewed Robert Malone, an infectious disease specialist, last month. Malone has been banned from Twitter for spreading COVID-19 misinformation.
Around 270 scientists and medical professionals signed a letter earlier this month urging Spotify to take action against Rogan, accusing him of spreading falsehoods on the podcast. The number of signatories has now risen to be more than 1,000.
What did Spotify say?
Spotify's CEO said there were "plenty of individuals and views" on the platform that he strongly disagreed with but it was important to him that the platform didn't "take the position of being content censor."
Ek said it was important at the same time to make sure there were "rules in place and consequences for those who violate" content policies.
The fact-based COVID-19 hub will provide quick and easy information as "shared by scientists, physicians, academic and public health authorities in the world, as well as links to trusted sources," Ek added.
Ek did not mention any specific persons involved in the controversy. He mentioned that the "new effort to combat misinformation" would roll out in the next few days.
Stars voice concerns over COVID misinformation
On Saturday, best-selling US professor and author Brene Brown — host of the Spotify-exclusive podcasts "Unlocking Us" and "Dare to Lead" — said she would not release any podcasts until further notice.
The UK's Prince Harry and Meghan Markle expressed their concern to Spotify on Sunday over COVID-19 misinformation but remained committed to continuing to work with the company, a spokesperson for their Archewell Foundation said.
Nils Lofgren, who has collaborated often with Neil Young, joined his protest earlier Sunday, encouraging other artists and music lovers "to stand" with them and "cut ties with Spotify." Canadian folk singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell joined Young last week, saying she was pulling her music from the platform because of "lies" about COVID-19.
Spotify had previously said it removed more than 20,000 podcast episodes related to the coronavirus, in keeping with its "detailed content policies."
bh/als (AP, AFP, Reuters)