The Joe Rogan Experience is perhaps the most popular podcast in the world—and it’s been at the center of a weeks-long controversy over COVID misinformation and content moderation. After Rogan invited on a guest who told falsehoods about the safety of COVID vaccines, outrage mounted toward Spotify, the podcasting and music streaming company that recently signed an exclusive deal with Rogan to distribute his show. Spotify came under pressure to intervene, as nearly 300 experts sent the company a letter demanding it take action, and musicians Neil Young and Joni Mitchell pulled their music from Spotify’s streaming service. And the controversy only seems to be growing.
This week on Arbiters of Truth, our series on the online information ecosystem, Evelyn Douek and Quinta Jurecic spoke with Ashley Carman, a senior reporter at The Verge who writes the newsletter Hot Pod, covering the podcast and audio industry. She’s broken news on Spotify’s content guidelines and Spotify CEO’s Daniel Ek’s comments to the company’s staff, and we couldn’t think of a better person to talk to about this slow-moving disaster. How has Spotify responded to the complaints over Rogan, and what does that tell us about how the company is thinking about its responsibilities in curating content? What’s Ashley’s read on the state of content moderation in the podcast industry more broadly? And … is this debate even about content moderation at all?