Why Can’t Spotify Edit Joe Rogan?

Seriously. It’s shouldn’t be this difficult.

Elizabeth Spiers

--

Photo by Harry Cunningham on Unsplash

I have another piece I’ve been working on that’s about Substack and disinfo, and this feels like a bit of a digression, but I honestly don’t understand why Spotify is publicly twisting itself in knots over what to do about Joe Rogan’s habit of spreading covid disinformation (via allowing guests to). There’s a simple solution to this problem, and it’s not the two extreme options that are repeatedly presented by the left and right, which are getting rid of Rogan altogether or allowing him to continue to say whatever he wants, regardless of whether it’s false and dangerous.

I’ll stipulate first that because Spotify is paying Rogan to air his show on their platform exclusively, they are acting as a publisher. This isn’t the case for everything they distribute. If they’re simply allowing a podcast to utilize the platform for distribution, they’re more akin to a social platform. But in Rogan’s case specifically, they can’t argue that they’re not invested in the specific content he’s producing, because they literally are.

I write opinion for a variety of major outlets — most recently, MSNBC, The New York Times and The Washington Post. Here is what I am technically allowed to do in those venues: be unintentionally wrongheaded about things, voice provocative opinions that will anger some people, and say things that might be graceless or tacky. I generally try avoid the first and last, but have no problem with the second.

Here is what I am not allowed to do: write things that are known to be false, with or without the intention to mislead. There’s an ethical reason for this, and a practical one. The ethical reason is that it’s not okay to intentionally deceive people — especially when the consequences of the deception are potentially deadly, as they are with vaccine misinformation. The practical reason is that it introduces liabilities for the publisher.

How do these outlets prevent me from spouting nonsense that could get them sued? They edit me and every other columnist they publish. Part of the editing process is fact checking. If I say the earth is flat, they will not allow it. That is not censorship of an unpopular viewpoint, or a restriction of free speech. The New York Times is not the…

--

--

Elizabeth Spiers

Writer, NYU j-school prof, political commentator, digital strategist, ex-editor in chief of The New York Observer, founding editor of Gawker