Spotify's 'Science VS' podcast will only fact-check misinformation being spread on Spotify

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·Contributing Reporter
·3 min read
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The host and editor of Science VS, a podcast owned by Spotify, are no longer making episodes of the show — save for those "intended to counteract misinformation being spread on Spotify." In a letter to Spotify CEO Daniel Ek, Wendy Zukerman and Blythe Terrell said their policy would remain in place until "Spotify implements stronger methods to stop the spread of misinformation on the platform."

Zukerman, who is also executive producer of the show, shared a copy of the letter on Twitter. She and Terrell said that, throughout the pandemic, Spotify had given them the resources they needed to publish a show containing accurate information about the coronavirus. "For more than six months, we've been encouraging our listeners to move to Spotify and telling them that this is the company that supports us to create factual episodes that are grounded in science," they wrote. "Spotify's support of Joe Rogan's podcast has felt like a slap in the face."

The pair said that, in an upcoming episode of Science VS, they'll show that information about COVID-19 vaccines is "repeatedly taken out of context" during a discussion between Rogan and Dr. Robert Malone on the former's podcast. "There's plenty of scientific evidence that contradicts some of the claims in the interview — but it's nowhere to be found in the episode," they wrote. "Rogan's show leaves the audience with a skewed and inaccurate view of the COVID-19 vaccines. And Spotify has done little to address this."

Zukerman and Terrell acknowledge that moderating content on a platform as big as Spotify isn't an easy ask, but argue that the company "has a responsibility to do more." They said they'll be examining the effectiveness of strategies that tech platforms are harnessing to tackle misinformation and were willing to share those findings with Spotify.

On Tuesday, the day after tweeting the letter, Zukerman said Spotify was willing to work with Science VS, which "feels like a step in the right direction." Science VS is produced by Gimlet Media, which Spotify purchased in 2019 as part of a major push into podcasts.

There's been a growing backlash against Spotify over claims that Rogan has been accused of spreading COVID-19 vaccine misinformation on his enormously popular podcast. Neil Young and Joni Mitchell pulled their music from the platform last week in protest, while Brené Brown has put her successful Spotify-exclusive podcasts on hold.

India Arie and Graham Nash (Young's Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young bandmate) also said they're removing their music from Spotify. "I find Joe Rogan problematic for reasons other than his Covid interviews," Arie wrote on Instagram. "For me, it’s also his language around race.”

On Sunday, Rogan apologized to Spotify over the backlash and said he'd do more to provide balance and differing opinions on his podcast. Spotify says it has removed more than 20,000 podcast episodes related to COVID-19 since the onset of the pandemic. The company reportedly noted in an internal memo that Rogan's content did not "meet the threshold for removal.”

In a blog post published at the weekend, Ek said Spotify would publish its content guidelines publicly and add a content advisory to podcast episodes that include COVID-19 discussions. He noted that the company hadn't been clear enough about its content policies. Earlier in January, hundreds of doctors, nurses, scientists and educators urged the platform to ""responsibility to mitigate the spread of misinformation" and adopt a clear policy, in the wake of Rogan's discussion with Malone.

Spotify became the exclusive distributor of The Joe Rogan Experience in 2020 as part of a multi-year deal worth a reported $100 million. It was the most popular podcast on the platform last year.