Spotify Forms Safety Advisory Council in Wake of Joe Rogan Controversy

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Spotify has created an 18-member council to advise the company on policies addressing harmful content on the audio platform “while making sure we respect creator expression.”

The move comes after a backlash earlier this year against Spotify and Joe Rogan, host of the No. 1 podcast on the service, over accusations that “The Joe Rogan Experience” spread COVID misinformation. In addition, Rogan drew fire after it was revealed he had used the N-word in dozens of episodes; Spotify subsequently removed 70 “JRE” episodes and CEO Daniel Ek apologized to staff members about the situation.

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Spotify insisted the creation of the advisory board, announced Monday, was not specifically because of the Rogan controversies. Sarah Hoyle, the streamer’s head of trust and safety, told Reuters that Spotify created the council address overall safety issues and not in response to “any particular creator or situation.”

That said, Spotify’s moves to respond to criticism of its content-safety policies were clearly triggered by the Rogan backlash. In January, Ek posted a lengthy statement outlining Spotify’s official content policies, after artists including Neil Young and Joni Mitchell demanded their music be removed from Spotify in protest of its distribution of “The Joe Rogan Experience” and called for a boycott of the service. In addition, Ek announced that Spotify would add warning labels on podcast episodes that discuss COVID-19.

The mission of Spotify’s newly formed Safety Advisory Council, which comprises independent experts from across the globe, is to help the company “evolve its policies and products in a safe way while making sure we respect creator expression.” Spotify claims it’s the first safety-focused council of its type at any major audio company.

According to Spotify, the members of the Safety Advisory Council “will not make enforcement decisions about specific content or creators.” Rather, they will provide input in key areas like policy and safety-feature development to guide Spotify’s approach to “equity, impact, and academic research.”

The advisory board’s feedback “will inform how we shape our high-level policies and the internal processes our teams follow to ensure that policies are applied consistently and at scale around the world,” Spotify said.

The Spotify Safety Advisory Council founding members and partner organizations are: the Dangerous Speech Project, represented by Prof. Susan Benesch and Tonei Glavinic; Center for Democracy and Technology, represented by Emma Llansó; Prof. Danielle Citron; Dr. Mary Anne Franks; Alex Holmes; Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD), represented by Henry Tuck and Milo Comerford; Dr. Jonas Kaiser; Kinzen, represented by founders Mark Little and Áine Kerr; Dr. Ronaldo Lemos; Dr. Christer Mattsson; Dr. Tanu Mitra; Desmond Upton Patton, PhD, MSW; Megan Phelps-Roper; and the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, represented by Dr. Katherine Pieper and Dr. Stacy L. Smith.

“While Spotify has been seeking feedback from many of these founding members for years, we’re excited to further expand and be more transparent about our safety partnerships,” the company said in a blog post announcing the advisory board. “In the months ahead, we will work closely with founding members to expand the council, with the goal of broadening regional and linguistic representation as well as adding additional experts in the equity and impact space.”

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