Stop me if you’ve heard this before:
An Internet celebrity, beloved by millions for his irreverent, anti-base comments, became the subject of backlash after critics accused him of promoting disinformation. dangerous deviation.
Controversy engulfs creators’ biggest platform, which has rules prohibiting dangerous misinformation and now faces pressure to enforce them against one of its users. highest reputation.
Hoping to weather the storm, the platform’s CEO published a blog post about the importance of free speech, refusing to punish rule-breakers but promising to introduce features. new will promote higher quality information.
However, the backlash is growing. Civil rights groups organized a boycott. Advertisers pull their campaigns. A hashtag trend. The platform’s employees threatened to leave. In the days that followed, executives were forced to choose between banning a popular creator – and facing the fury of fans – or being seen as hypocritical and dangerous. dangerous.
If this scenario sounds familiar, it’s because a version of it has appeared on every major internet media platform over the past half-decade. Facebook and Alex Jones, Twitter and Donald Trump, YouTube and PewDiePie, Netflix and Dave Chappelle: Every major platform finds itself stuck, at some point, between this particular rock and a difficult place.
Now, it’s Spotify’s turn. The audio giant has faced calls for weeks to take action against the hugely popular podcast host Joe Rogan, after Mr Rogan was accused of promoting misinformation about Mr. Covid-19 in its program, including hosting a guest who used to blocked by twitter for spreading false information about the Covid-19 vaccine. This month, a group of hundreds of medical professionals urge Spotify to suppress about Covid-19 misinformation, saying that Mr Rogan had a “relevant history” of false advertising about the virus.
So far, the backlash cycle is hitting most regular notes. Critics have compared excerpts of Mr. Rogan’s interview with Spotify’s stated rules, material ban “Promoting fraudulent or dangerous content about Covid-19.” Two folk rock legends, Neil Young and Joni Mitchell, lead the boycott, pulled their catalog from Spotify last week to protest the platform’s decision to support Mr. Rogan. Brené Brown, another famous presenter, soon after, said that she will not release new episodes Her Spotify-exclusive podcast “until further notice.”
Daniel Ek, CEO of Spotify, Publish required blog post on Sunday, defended the company’s commitment to free speech and said “it’s important to me that we don’t take the position of content moderation.” And while Spotify refuses to take action against Mr. Rogan, Spotify is committed to issuing advisory warnings on podcast episodes about Covid-19 and directing listeners to a hub filled with authoritative health information. .
Despite the surface similarities, Mr. Rogan’s Spotify standoff differs from most other conflicts between creators and tech platforms in several key respects.
For one, Spotify is more than just one of Rogan’s many podcast distribution apps. Streaming service paid more than 100 million dollars won the exclusive rights to “The Joe Rogan Experience” in 2020, making him the headline act for its growing podcast division. Critics say that deal, along with the way that Spotify actively promotes Rogan’s show inside its app, gives the company more responsibility for his program than those of others. otherwise made by the company.
Another difference is who uses leverage in this conflict. YouTube, Twitter and Facebook are ad-supported businesses; If advertisers disagree with moderation decisions, they can threaten to cause financial damage by withdrawing their campaigns. (Are these boycotts really?) accomplish anything is another question.)
Spotify, by contrast, makes most of its money from subscriptions, so it’s unlikely to suffer financially from dealing with Mr. Rogan unless there’s a wave of account cancellations. And given the number of Netflix subscribers who appear to have canceled their subscriptions during early last year with Mr Chappelle, Spotify can breathe easy on this front right now.
But Spotify has another constituency to worry about: the stars. A top music streaming service like Spotify needs to have popular hits in its library, which means that in theory qualified musicians could be forced to make a change simply by threatened to delete their album. (As one viral tweets said last week: “Taylor Swift could end Joe Rogan with a single tweet on Spotify.”) In fact, it’s a bit more complicated than that, partly because of the record labels, not the musicians, usually controls streaming permissions. But there is still a possibility if Mr. Young and Ms. As Mitchell inspires many top musicians and/or labels to pull their songs off Spotify, that could turn out to be a real business risk for the company.
The third difference is Mr. Rogan himself. Jones and other firefighters, he was primarily an interviewer, and most of the uproar was in response to what his guests had to say. That gives him a better excuse for entertaining side views, though critics have pointed out that Rogan’s own statement about Covid-19 also full of questionable information.
So, how will Mr. Rogan’s backlash cycle end? Hard to say.
One possibility is that it will end up like Mr. Jones and Mr. Trump, whose behavior is so outrageous (and who continue to blatantly break the rules even after being called out) that Twitter and Facebook don’t. have no real choice but to shut them down. permanently reduced.
Mr. Rogan can double down on Covid-19 disinformation, dare Spotify to delist his platform and consider himself a “victim of the awakened mob”, censored for telling too many nasty truths . He could get out of his Spotify deal and go back to YouTube and other platforms that used to do his shows. (He might even be on a right-wing social network like Gettr or Parler, but I guess he prefers the audience.)
Or he could do what PewDiePie, the popular YouTube creator whose real name is Felix Kjellberg, did after he was accused of making hateful comments. After a short time be a hero for right-wing reactionaries, Mr. Kjellberg apologized for his behavior, cleaned up his channel and finally got back to work on the good things of the platform.
Mr. Rogan could quietly capitulate, defend his Spotify deal and step back from the cynical fringes of Covid in a way that doesn’t tarnish his reputation as an anti-establishment. (This result seemed the most desirable on Sunday night, when Mr. Rogan posted a 10-minute video on Instagram apologizes for its “out of control” program and pledges to invite more mainstream experts to discuss the pandemic.)
A third option is that an entire controversy could erupt, like the one between Mr Chappelle and Netflix last year, which began after the comedian was accused of making crosstalk during a show. special process and ended up, a few days later, with no real consequences for anyone. . But this outcome seems unlikely, as boycotts have already begun and appear to be snowing.
The relationship between media personalities and the networks that broadcast their work is always tense. But it’s gotten messier in recent years, as growth-hungry tech companies have begun paying top stars directly for their content. These deals have made them more like old radio and TV stations – choosing popular activities, paying well for their work, taking greater responsibility for their output – and less like neutral platforms they once claimed.
The relationship between companies and their users is also changing. Users of these services have learned, by observing dozens of backlash cycles over the past few years, that enough pressure can make a tech company do almost anything. They understand that company rules are fuzzy and impromptu, and that what chief executives want—no matter what high-intelligence principles they hold—is for people to stop yelling. scold them. They also know that if a company doesn’t act solely on the complaints of its listeners, there are other ways to increase the heat.
Spotify probably thinks it’s past the worst of the Rogan backlash. But we know from recent history that what looks like the end of a content moderation controversy is often just the warm-up.
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/31/technology/joe-rogan-spotify-controversy.html Spotify’s Joe Rogan Issue Won’t Happen