It has been a week Spotify would rather forget. After a number of artists quit the platform due to its ongoing support of Joe Rogan’s controversial podcast and the company’s global market share taking a major hit, the Sussexes have publicly expressed concerns about misinformation on the streaming platform.
Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan’s Archewell organization, which has a dedicated podcast division signed exclusively to the audio streamer, released a statement early Sunday expressing the couple’s worries about Spotify’s failure to prevent the spread of coronavirus misinformation.
A spokesperson for the Sussexes told media outlets, including BAZAAR.com, that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex first aired their views on the matter as far back as April 2021—four months after signing a multi-year podcast partnership.
“Last April, our co-founders began expressing concerns to our partners at Spotify about the all too real consequences of COVID-19 misinformation on its platform,” the spokesperson says. “We have continued to express our concerns to Spotify to ensure changes to its platform are made to help address this public health crisis.”
“We look to Spotify to meet this moment and are committed to continuing our work together as it does,” the representative added.
Just hours before the couple’s January 30 statement, self-help author and friend of the Sussexes Brené Brown took to Twitter to share she will not be uploading new episodes of her exclusive Spotify podcasts, Unlocking Us and Dare to Lead, until further notice. “I will not be releasing any podcasts until further notice. . . I’m sorry and I’ll let you know if and when that changes,” she wrote.
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It seems Spotify have been listening closely. On Sunday evening, CEO Daniel Ek announced that the company is planning to implement “changes to help combat misinformation”. In a press release, he explained, “It’s become clear to me that we have an obligation to do more to provide balance and access to widely-accepted information from the medical and scientific communities guiding us through this unprecedented time.”
Ek added that Spotify will be working to add a content advisory to any podcast episode that includes a discussion about Covid-19 and “begin testing ways to highlight our Platform Rules in our creator and publisher tools to raise awareness around what’s acceptable and help creators understand their accountability.”
Spotify’s loyalty to the Joe Rogan Experience, which pulls in over 11 million listeners per episode, had already resulted in several big names leaving the media provider. Hall of Fame musicians Neil Young and Joni Mitchell both pulled their entire back catalogs from Spotify in protest last week—a move that resulted in the streaming company’s market capitalization falling more than $2.1 billion in the span of three days.
Time will only tell how Spotify’s promised changes will affect Joe Rogan’s content. Last month Spotify shared they removed a total of 20,000 assorted podcast episodes for breaking content guidelines, which include a ban on “content that promotes dangerous false or deceptive content about healthcare that may cause offline harm and/or pose a direct threat to public health”. But a leaked internal memo revealed the company had already reviewed every Rogan episode and none “met the threshold for removal”.
Rogan has regularly been criticized by medical and scientific communities for spreading dangerous conspiracy theories and misinformation about coronavirus, including claiming healthy young people don’t need vaccination and promoting the use of medication made for parasites in livestock as an effective treatment. In December, more than 250 scientists and physicians sent an open letter to Spotify condemning them for amplifying “misleading and false claims”.
Harry and Meghan’s signing with the Spotify’s audio division was first announced in December 2020 and they are currently hiring a new team to produce a weekly show with Archewell featuring “high-profile women.” At the time of announcing the deal, the royal pair—who have spent the past two years working to address the real-time global misinformation crisis—said in a statement, “[we] will host and produce podcasts that build community through shared experience, narratives, and values.”
This article originally appeared in Harper’s BAZAAR US