Joe Rogan and Spotify Spark a Conversation on Regulation and Misinformation – Grand Valley Lanthorn

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Last week, well-known music artists called on Spotify to actively regulate the content they post on their platform.

Joe Rogan is a famous podcaster who covers politics, economics, and health. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Rogan has presented himself as an authority on non-traditional alternative medicine. He downplayed the severity of the virus, promoted untested treatments and questioned the safety of vaccines. “The Joe Rogan Experience”, a podcast exclusive to Spotify, is Rogan’s main platform.

Recently, artists like Neil Young and Joni Mitchell have removed their music from Spotify. Several other musicians and public figures have demanded that Spotify regulate Rogan’s podcast, instead of giving him an open platform to spread misinformation.

Later in the week, videos of Rogan using racial slurs circulated on social media. Another video involved Rogan comparing a black neighborhood to a “Planet of the Apes” movie. Since then, Spotify has removed over 70 episodes from its platform.

As Spotify said in a public statement, they don’t want to censor artists, and neither should they. No institution should silence voices based on opinion or potential obscenity. But when social media and other tech platforms play a significant role in public crises, it raises the periodic question of whether or not the tech industry itself should be more heavily regulated.

Former President Donald Trump was able to freely circulate his debunked claims of voter fraud on Facebook and Twitter, before the companies themselves took the standalone decision to remove his content. However, that came after Trump instigated the Jan. 6 insurrection, which resulted in Capitol police being injured, destruction of public property and death threats against elected officials.

Although Rogan’s claims did not incite violence, his podcast still poses a public threat. He continually questions the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines and advocates for untested medical alternatives. At this point, Spotify is in the same situation as Facebook and Twitter. While the tech industry remains largely unregulated, the impetus lies with Spotify to regulate itself.

In addition to dismantling monopolies, public policy should take into account that Spotify and Facebook have indirectly contributed to the severity of the pandemic as a public health crisis by being a mechanism to spread misinformation.

Despite the Trump administration’s best efforts to politicize it, the pandemic is not a political issue. Regulating content of political opinion – removing content presented as too progressive or too conservative – is fraught with pitfalls. Similarly, the discussion around the censorship of obscenity is confused and complex. Trying to figure out what is and isn’t acceptable to say in public spaces is a difficult and frustrating process.

However, verifying medical misinformation is, while difficult and resource-intensive, quite simple. Making false claims, deliberately contradicting the results of diligent scientific research, is not the same as leaning vocally to the right or to the left. Public health is not an amorphous space of opinion or debate; although scholarship is a complex process, there are, for the most part, distinct rights and wrongs.

At Lanthorn, we are familiar with concepts like framing, agenda and the issue of censorship. We care deeply about First Amendment protections. Above all, we know that our work has the potential to influence the decisions our readers make and the conversations that take place in our community. We take this accusation seriously and carefully check the information published in our newspaper.

While members of the GVSU community are welcome to share their options and views on our platform, there is zero tolerance for misinformation at Lanthorn; and we would like to see other larger platforms adopt this policy.

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