Joe Rogan apologises after backlash hits Spotify shares

Spotify said it would add a content advisory to any episode
with discussion of COVID to try to quell the controversy, a first step into the
field of content moderation that other platforms such as Facebook have found
challenging and costly.

Spotify shares were up 2% in pre-market trading on Monday
but still at their lowest since May 2020, after the controversy and a broader
sell-off of tech stocks in January eroded more than a quarter of its value.

Rogan’s show, The Joe Rogan Experience, has been the most
listened-to podcast on Spotify and is central to its plan to expand beyond
music and take on rivals such as Apple and Amazon for a share of the podcasting

In a 10-minute Instagram video post on Sunday evening, Rogan
apologised to Spotify for the backlash but defended inviting contentious

“If I pissed you off, I’m sorry,” Rogan said.
“I will do my best to try to balance out these more controversial
viewpoints with other people’s perspectives so we can maybe find a better point
of view.”

Rogan is a prominent vaccine skeptic and his views on
vaccines and government mandates to control the spread of the virus alienated
prominent figures from singer-songwriter Neil Young to guitarist Nils Lofgren
to best-selling US professor and author Brené Brown.

Singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell also asked for her music to
be taken Spotify, citing a letter from hundreds of medical professionals urging
the platform to prevent Rogan spreading falsehoods on the pandemic.

Spotify, which reports its quarterly earnings on Wednesday,
has spent billions to build its podcast business and currently has over 3
million titles on its platform. Although it has an exclusive license to
distribute the podcast, Rogan himself owns the show.

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Spotify CEO Daniel Ek said late on Sunday that he might
disagree with the views of some individuals on the platform but that it was
“important to me that we don’t take on the position of being content

Its new policies include adding an advisory to any
pandemic-related podcast that will direct listeners to a COVID-19 hub
containing information from medical and health experts, as well as links to
authoritative sources.

But the task of content moderation that it has now been
dragged into is very different from removing songs with copyright violations, a
job that Spotify is familiar with.

The social media giant Facebook also had to give up its
opposition to deciding what content people see, and has deployed thousands of
content moderators as well as artificial intelligence to block hate speech and
fake news on its platform.

With Rogan apologising, the current controversy might blow
over, but it is unlikely to be the last that Spotify will face.

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