Spotify and the Spread of COVID-19 Misinformation

What happens if one of the music streaming service giants spreads misinformation about COVID-19? The result was a huge uproar. The streaming behemoth is Spotify, and the uproar is the calls to boycott and/or delete people’s Spotify accounts.

In short, Joe Rogan, one of the most popular podcaster on Spotify, has been criticized by many for being accused of spreading misinformation about vaccines and COVID-19. One of the strongest critics of Joe Rogan is the legendary musician Neil Young. In a statement posted to his website, Young called Spotify “the home of life threatening Covid misinformation. He added: “Lies being sold for money”.

Neil Young’s criticism of Spotify came after a group of hundreds of scientists, professors and public health experts asked Spotify to take down an episode of Rogan’s show from Dec. 31 2021. That episode, featuring Dr. Robert Malone, an infectious-disease expert, promoted several falsehoods about COVID-19 vaccines, according to the group’s public letter, which was issued on Jan. 10 2022.

Neil Young gives Spotify an ultimatum: choose Neil Young, or Joe Rogan? And of course Spotify chose Rogan. As a result, Neil Young then pulled all of his music catalog from the platform created by Daniel Ek. Neil Young boldly said “Trust me! Trust the science!”

Neil Young’s boycott finally led to a big uproar. Several other major musicians also called for a boycott of Spotify. One of them is the legendary musician Joni Mitchell who participated in removing all her music catalog from Spotify.

Social media is also full with various hashtags such as #BoycottSpotify and #DeleteSpotify. Neil Young and Joni Mitchell are just the beginning, many suspect that after this more musicians will boycott Spotify and remove their music from this streaming service.

Spotify’s loss due to this problem is enormous. This raises the question: why would Spotify prefer to keep Joe Rogan over Neil Young or Joni Mitchell? Why has Spotify persisted in defending podcast content that clearly spreads misinformation about COVID-19?

Spotify is one of the biggest music streaming services. Like other streaming behemoth such as Apple Music, or Amazon Music, Spotify is arguably a new way of listening to music in today’s era. Spotify and cloud streaming services are lined up as the future of music. Abandoning the pattern of listening to music analogously that stumbles out of date.

Spotify claims to have 70 Million songs in their catalog, as well as 318 Million active users per month, including 172 million who pay for subscriptions. This is not a small number. With that figure, Spotify’s valuation is estimated to be $20 billion.

This COVID-19 flurry of misinformation has cost Spotify quite a bit. Several mass media reported that Spotify’s stock value plummeted and they lost $4 billion in just a week. The decline in Spotify’s shares was triggered by negative sentiments arising from the emergence of the Neil Young vs Spotify case, plus widespread consumer distrust of Spotify which led to calls for a boycott and deletion of Spotify premium accounts.

As the ruler of the world music streaming market, Spotify has previously received a lot of scathing criticism. Some of these criticisms are, for example, regarding Spotify, which is accused of being a means of surveillance capitalism in which they harvest users’ personal data and then sell them to advertisers.

Last year the founder of Spotify, Daniel Ek, was also in the spotlight because he was known to use Spotify’s revenue money to invest in the weapons industry.

Spotify is also often criticized for being unfair in paying royalties to musicians, especially independent musicians. The $20 billion valuation does not guarantee that Spotify will then be able to pay musicians royalties properly. Spotify only pays $0.003 to $0.0084 per stream to musicians. The numbers are really far from decent.

However, apart from the two previous criticisms. The most scathing criticism and to the point of giving rise to calls for a boycott of Spotify only emerged recently. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic that has been running for two years, as a giant music and podcast platform accessed by so many people, Spotify should have a better policy regarding the spread of information about COVID-19. However, instead of taking preventive action, Spotify maintains the misinformation to great advantage.

It’s no wonder that Spotify chose to keep Joe Rogan and letting go Neil Young. They’ve invested $100 million to license the exclusive Rogan podcast to their platform, and stats prove that since Joe Rogan’s deal with Spotify on last 2020, it was worth every penny. Joe Rogan and his podcast channel were able to attract 2.66 million listeners. That big number is certainly a consideration for Spotify to keep Joe Rogan.

However, maybe Spotify didn’t think that far and didn’t think that by releasing Neil Young they were digging their own grave. After so many years, finally this is the first time that there has been a call for such a massive movement to attack Spotify’s credibility.

After all, people are already tired and fed up with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic after two years. So, all forms of misinformation that are misleading and harmful and threaten the lives of many people will certainly be rejected outright.

Spotify as a platform with large users should be wiser and prioritize the safety of many people rather than choosing profit and money. It is only natural that many people are angry and boycott Spotify when they are proven to prefer money over health.

As legendary old musicians, Neil Young and Joni Mitchell are certainly listened to and followed by many. Their boycott of Spotify is allegedly just a start. It is possible that in the near future more musicians—especially young musician—will join the boycott of Spotify and revoke their music catalog.

When that happens, it may be too late and the executives at Spotify just realized that truth and science will win out in the end, and the health of people is more important than making crazy profits.

If Spotify still persists in maintaining the existence of COVID-19 misinformation on their platform, surely this boycott movement will expand and this goliath streaming service may collapse. Because it should be science that will win against misinformation.

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