Streaming service Spotify says that it bans false and dangerous information about COVID on its podcasts.
“We will not allow content that infringes or in any way is inaccurate. We are very very strict about our policies as they relate to harmful, threatening, malicious content, and we state all of our policies online,” Spotify’s chief content and advertising business officer, Dawn Ostroff, said at Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summit in October.
But over a year after signing up star podcaster Joe Rogan, who routinely invites guests who have made unsubstantiated medical claims on his program, the company is falling far short of its promises, critics say.
On a Dec. 31 show, Rogan interviewed Robert Malone, a virologist who was recently banned from Twitter for spreading misinformation on Pfizer’s mRNA vaccine, including a tweet alleging that an unnamed “Israeli scientist,” Pfizer, and the Israeli government are colluding to keep adverse effects from the vaccine from the public for the next decade. Additionally, Malone had made inflammatory comparisons such as equating vaccines with “mass psychosis” and likening pandemic policies to the Holocaust, which caused the controversial interview to be removed from YouTube.
On Monday, a group of over 260 doctors, academics, and scientists signed an open letter urging Spotify to “immediately establish a clear and public policy to moderate misinformation on its platform.” They spoke about the dangerous ramifications of promoting scientific mistrust and called for accountability from Spotify for letting this activity thrive on its platform.
“As educators and science communicators, we are tasked with repairing the public’s damaged understanding of science and medicine,” the group said in its letter. “As physicians, we bear the arduous weight of a pandemic that has stretched our medical systems to their limits and only stands to be exacerbated by the anti-vaccination sentiment woven into this and other episodes of Rogan’s podcast.”
Health professionals have faced a huge burden during the pandemic—unsafe working conditions, lack of sleep, labor shortages, and the constant risk of contracting COVID. They have also had to deal with public resistance and, in some cases, hostility to vaccines owing to the spread of misinformation.
Spotify did not immediately return Fortune’s request for comment.
This isn’t the first time Spotify and Joe Rogan, who averages 11 million streams for each of his podcasts, have been criticized for spreading COVID misinformation.
Rogan previously promoted off-label use of antiparasitic drug ivermectin to treat COVID-19 (regardless of FDA warnings). Other Rogan podcast guests who have spread COVID misinformation include Alex Jones, a far-right radio host who claimed that microchips were being injected into people’s arms under the guise of COVID-19 precautions.
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