Stop the misinformation experience: Spotify must intervene

Update: February 4, 2022 — As of February 24, 2022, Spotify has not provided a response to our letter. We urge the company to open a constructive dialogue with civil society and demonstrate that it takes its users’ human rights seriously.

Spotify’s decision to host and produce The Joe Rogan Experience podcast, replete with harmful and misleading COVID-19-related content, is a risk to human rights and public health. The company has a responsibility to exercise editorial discretion and intervene.

“COVID-19 is dangerous enough without the most popular podcast in the world fanning false rhetoric, undermining people’s ability to make safe, informed decisions about their health,” said Willmary Escoto, U.S. Policy Analyst at Access Now. “Since Spotify produces the content, they are operating like journalists. This means Spotify is responsible for publishing truthful information.”  

Through an open letter to Daniel Ek, Co-Founder and CEO at Spotify, Access Now is once again shining a spotlight on the human rights implications of the company’s decisions, asking: “Is Spotify willing to allow harmful content on its platform to spread, prioritizing the companyʼs bottom line over public health?As The Joe Rogan Experience podcast is produced exclusively by Spotify, the company has control over the distribution of the content, and the ability to exercise editorial discretion over what host Joe Rogan and guests say.

“Spotify cannot continue to wait for negative PR attention to make simple steps towards addressing its human rights impacts,” said Isedua Oribhabor, Business and Human Rights Lead at Access Now. “The choices the company makes have a significant impact, and Spotify cannot simply sit back and watch — or listen — as the fallout of placing profits before people jeopardizes the welfare of a global audience.”

Access Now is calling on Spotify to:

  1. Publish a human rights policy to demonstrate its commitment to respecting users’ rights;
  2. Undertake ongoing human rights due diligence to understand, identify, and address the human rights risks associated with the company’s practices on content governance, privacy, and security; and
  3. Issue regular transparency reports detailing how the company responds to third-party requests for user information and takes action against users, content producers, and flagged accounts to enforce its Platform Rules.

In Spotify’s response to Access Now’s April 2021 letter on precarious speech-recognition technology, the company stated  that it “think[s] about issues at the intersection of technology, public policy, and ethics every day.” Access Now encourages Spotify to live up to this commitment.

Read the open letter.