Should Spotify Back Joe Rogan in COVID Misinformation Dispute with Neil Young?
Should Spotify Back Joe Rogan in COVID Misinformation Dispute with Neil Young?
COM’s T. Barton Carter on the ethics and economics
Public health advocates are humming Forever Young in homage to Neil Young after the 76-year-old singer’s dustup with Spotify over COVID-19 misinformation.
Young triggered a celebrity secession this week from the streaming platform for hosting Joe Rogan’s podcast—Spotify’s most popular—where the comedian has interviewed anti-VAX guests. (Critics say Rogan, who has had COVID, has himself pooh-poohed vaccination requirements for mass events and criticized COVID safety measures.) After Spotify sided with Rogan—honoring Young’s request to remove his music if it wouldn’t cancel Rogan’s podcast—Joni Mitchell, Peter Frampton, and Nils Lofgren, a longtime member of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band and Young’s Crazy Horse, quickly announced they were following Young off the platform.
Spotify responded by saying it would append a content advisory to any podcast episode on COVID, steering listeners to reputable experts. For his part, Rogan pledged to open his podcast to “differing opinions” on COVID.
Are Spotify and Rogan’s steps enough amidst an ongoing pandemic? BU Today asked T. Barton Carter, a College of Communication professor of media science and a lawyer with expertise in communication law and new technologies who has written three textbooks on the First Amendment and communication law.
With T. Barton Carter
BU Today: Was Spotify right to stand by Rogan and keep his podcast going?
T. Barton Carter: From a business standpoint, what they would do is decide which is going to cost them more money. From an ethical standpoint, that’s more complicated, only because they are a business for putting up different ideas and positions. At what point do they decide that something is so antithetical to what they stand for that they need to remove it? There’s also a problem if they say, we’re taking Rogan off because Neil Young wants us to—what happens next? He was interviewing people who said these [anti-vax] things. More generally, where is the line? Do you let some [people] bully you into shutting up other people?
Personally, I don’t think that that [anti-vax] information should be out there. I disagree with it. But it gets complicated when you’re talking about being a forum for different viewpoints and how far do you go. For example, Netflix recently had a controversy with Dave Chappelle [over the stand-up’s transphobic comments in a Netflix special]. A lot of people demanded he be taken off. Netflix didn’t, and it seemed to have died down.
BU Today: Do you think Rogan’s fans would seek more reliable COVID information were Spotify to eject him?
T. Barton Carter: No, probably not. I hate to say it, but in terms of vaccine anti-vax, the vast majority of the country has made up its mind, one way or the other. One of the problems with the modern media landscape is that it’s easy for people to seek out only those who agree with them or reinforce their beliefs. They’re going to continue to seek those people out.
BU Today: Will Spotify’s advisory suffice to counter COVID disinformation?
T. Barton Carter: Probably not much. As I said, I think most people have made up their minds. And if they are following a particular podcast, it’s probably because they agree with the viewpoints on that podcast.
BU Today: What about Rogan’s pledge that he’ll offer expert opposing viewpoints?
T. Barton Carter: You can argue that it gives him a more balanced program, but again, the question is: will the people who have been listening to him listen to these contrasting opinions?
BU Today: Might the celebrity power of Neil Young and Joni Mitchell trump ratings and push Spotify to reconsider keeping Rogan on?
T. Barton Carter: I guess it’s possible if there are enough of them. Spotify makes its money from subscriptions, so how many people would drop their subscriptions if these people are no longer available, versus how many might drop their subscriptions if Joe Rogan’s no longer available? I don’t [know], and it probably would depend on how many people drop off. It’s different than platforms that subsist on advertising revenue, because when advertisers start pulling their ads, the effect is somewhat more immediate.
BU Today: Is this an area where regulation might be necessary and would pass legal muster?
T. Barton Carter: Spotify is a publisher. They’re buying these things and putting them up on their platform. Section 230 [a federal provision immunizing website platforms from liability for third-party content] would not be applicable to Spotify, but there is the First Amendment issue. Is the public health argument sufficient to overcome their First Amendment rights? Spotify has a First Amendment right to publish. At what point could you argue that the law would be constitutional in requiring them not to publish something or punishing them for publishing something? That would be a very, very hard argument to make generally, but also when you start trying to define what it is you’re not letting them publish.
Obviously, the pandemic has raised, shall we say, people’s temperature. You look at what’s going on in terms of vax requirements, the battles pro and con, the two Biden actions that went to the Supreme Court. One was upheld [mandating COVID vaccination for health workers], and one wasn’t [vaccination requirements for larger employers]. The emotional component as well as the logic component make it very difficult, and all sides seem to be very entrenched.
How about good ole’ freedom of speech? I’m triple vaccinated and don’t agree with everything Joe Rogan says, but it is scary that censoring him is even being considered.
Just today Tulsi Gabbard tweeted… “Zealots … try to censor voices who don’t agree with theirs”. Maybe we should silence her, too. Who else?
Whoopi Goldberg defended rapper Jay-Z in 2014, saying he should have been allowed to hit back Solange Knowles during the fight in an elevator that happened. Where’s the uproar?
The headline itself is misleading. Someone’s opinion or personal experience is not misinformation, it is their opinion or personal experience (pardon the redundancy). Headlines are no place for editorializing.
LSD, mushrooms, no big deal. Conflicting with the well-established facts (LOL) about covid? Big deal.
Think back a few centuries. It was patently obvious that the sun, moon, and indeed the universe, all revolved around the earth. Then along came Nick Copernicus with his misinformation . . .
PS, I have my vaccine card, just in case it becomes a qualification for posting on this site.
Good story. I just wanted to note that Spotify does indeed generate advertising revenue. And I have to imagine that it might be an issue for their business model if enough advertisers were to pull their spots due to protest. According to this Reuter’s article, almost 50% of Spotify listeners are non-subscription.
I think it’s wise, fair and healthy to have a balanced set of opinions out there so that people can make up their own minds. All this talk of censorship – which is essentially what Neil Young requested – only makes the vaccine-hesitant more convinced that the media is pandering to a chosen agenda, not genuine facts. I’ve listened to many episodes of Joe Rogan’s podcast and it is fantastic. He’s very well read and his guests are experts in their field. Their expert opinions may not line up with mainstream thinking, but is that really a reason to silence them? Imagine if we’d silenced MLK because his thoughts were not mainstream. Or if we silenced those advocating for the rights of the LGBTQIA+ community. Censorship is not ok. We condemn other countries for engaging in it but the US has shown it’s only too willing to walk down the same road in the name of quelling ‘misinformation’. So sad.
Thank you, BU today for providing a space for conversation like this one. Not every university is open for discussing like BU.
Steve Kirsch invites experts for an open debate to correct the “misinformation spreaders” that appeared in Joe Rogan’s shows:
Please do our part in sharing this so the experts are aware of this opportunity.
In fact, open debates are long overdue in this country. For the past two years, how many open debates do we have, or only monologues from people who declare themselves as science?
I think a better headline would be: should viewers of CNN, MSNBC, and NBC and Politifact boycott these news sources over their misinformation. It is remarkable how this works. As Rogan himself has pointed out, much of what was deemed misinformation over which you could be deplatformed has turned out to be true!
Should we go through a list of all the things about Covid which corporate news media got wrong over the past 2 years? The New York Times itself was calling the Lab Leak Theory fringe conspiracy which by their own standards was and is misinformation. Should we call the Times disseminators of misinformation? Spotify does not pretend to be a publisher. They are just a platform for different opinions. In that regard they carry much less responsibility. But the Times whole business is “objective” journalism.
It really feels like the word misinformation has been used as a silencing tool by the political establishment, using respected papers like the Times and Washington Post as their mouthpieces. It really reminds one of the type of propaganda used by authoritarian regime against powerless individuals who dare to try to expose the corruption of powerful elites.
Here’s the bottom line: Having open honest debates between competing viewpoints is the best way to fight misinformation. Letting people make up their own minds by refuting misinformation with honest evidence is the best way to fight misinformation. Whoever is silencing open debate should be suspected as a tool of the establishment with conflicts of interest between public service and private interests of giant corporations. Private interests like Pfiezer’s which sponsors half the news media giants like CBS and others (don’t believe it look it up). All liberals who traditionally stood against alliances of big government and big corporations’ abuse of power should be suspicious of the covert silencing campaign using “misinformation” as an excuse.
Funny how they cannot provide any examples of this elusive “misinformation”. I guarantee you the author of this article did not listen to the Robert Malone interview. Every statement was carefully delivered, I challenge you to provide a list of the false statements. I am waiting, should not be difficult if Joe Rogan is truly a threat to the health and safety of this country.
Are you aware that Neil Young did not write, or perform “Forever Young”? It’s a Bob Dylan song. Improve your fact checking.