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Spotify to add a content advisory to podcasts that discuss Covid-19

Prince Harry and Meghan told Spotify "about the all too real consequences of COVID-19 misinformation on its platform,” a spokesperson said.
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Spotify announced Sunday that it will add a content advisory to any podcast episode that discusses Covid-19 amid complaints that it was allowing misinformation to spread on its platform.

The streaming music service said the advisory will direct listeners to its Covid-19 hub, which will provide access to data-driven facts, links to resources and information from trusted scientists and doctors.

"To our knowledge, this content advisory is the first of its kind by a major podcast platform," Spotify said in a news release.

The rollout will begin around the world in the next few days.

The change was one of several announced by Spotify, which said it will also publish its platform rules on the main website and test ways to "highlight" the rules so creators know what is acceptable.

"I want you to know that from the very first days of the pandemic, Spotify has been biased toward action," CEO Daniel Ek wrote.

"I trust our policies, the research and expertise that inform their development, and our aspiration to apply them in a way that allows for broad debate and discussion, within the lines. We take this seriously and will continue to partner with experts and invest heavily in our platform functionality and product capabilities for the benefit of creators and listeners alike," he said.

Prince Harry and Meghan had addressed the controversy earlier Sunday, writing in a statement through their Archewell foundation that they had expressed concerns to Spotify “about the all too real consequences of COVID-19 misinformation on its platform.”

"Since the inception of Archewell, we have worked to address the real-time global misinformation crisis. Hundreds of millions of people are affected by the serious harms of rampant mis- and disinformation every day," an Archewell spokesperson said in a statement.

The couple announced in 2020 that they would produce and host podcasts exclusively on Spotify through their audio production company, Archewell Audio.

"We have continued to express our concerns to Spotify to ensure changes to its platform are made to help address this public health crisis," the spokesperson said. "We look to Spotify to meet this moment and are committed to continuing our work together as it does.”

Harry and Meghan spoke out after musicians Joni Mitchell and Neil Young pulled their catalogs from Spotify. Both artists expressed frustration over some of the platform's content about vaccines, namely Joe Rogan's podcast.

Rogan has been heavily criticized for propagating misinformation about vaccines, some of it from guests on his podcast, “The Joe Rogan Experience.” The program, which is available exclusively on Spotify, reached No. 1 globally last year, Spotify said last month.

"They can have Rogan or Young. Not both,” Young said in an open letter posted on his website Monday, which was removed later, Rolling Stone magazine reported. NBC News has not seen the original post, and it is unclear why it was removed from Young’s website.

Spotify said Wednesday that it had agreed to remove Young’s music.

In a written statement Wednesday, a Spotify spokesperson said the platform wants all music and audio content to be available to its users.

“With that comes great responsibility in balancing both safety for listeners and freedom for creators,” the spokesperson said, adding that Spotify has content policies and that it has removed more than 20,000 podcast episodes related to Covid-19.

Young told fans on Twitter that his music is still available on Amazon Music, Apple Music and his website.

“Private companies have the right to choose what they profit from, just as I can choose not to have my music support a platform that disseminates harmful information,” he wrote in another letter to fans. “I am happy and proud to stand in solidarity with the front line health care workers who risk their lives every day to help others.

Mitchell removed her music in solidarity with Young, sharing a letter from medical professionals and scientists criticizing Rogan's podcast for what they said was a history of misinformation about the pandemic and vaccines.

“Irresponsible people are spreading lies that are costing people their lives,” Mitchell wrote in a post on her website. “I stand in solidarity with Neil Young and the global scientific and medical communities on this issue.”