On Jan. 24, Neil Young posted a letter addressed to his manager and an executive at his record label, which has since been deleted, asking for his music to be removed from Spotify in protest of the allowance of misinformation to be spread on the platform by popular podcaster Joe Rogan.
"I am doing this because Spotify is spreading fake information about vaccines – potentially causing death to those who believe the disinformation being spread by them,” Young wrote according to Rolling Stone. "They can have Rogan or Young. Not both.”
This came nearly a month after 270 doctors, physicians, and science educators asked Spotify to implement a misinformation policy in an open letter, which also asked the platform to stop allowing Rogan to spread Covid-19 misinformation in his podcast titled, The Joe Rogan Experience. The letter reads; "By allowing the propagation of false and societally harmful assertions, Spotify is enabling its hosted media to damage public trust in scientific research and sow doubt in the credibility of data-driven guidance offered by medical professionals”.
Two days after Young posted the letter calling out Spotify, Spotify began removing his music from the platform. In a statement made that same day, Spotify said; "We want all the world’s music and audio content to be available to Spotify users. With that comes great responsibility in balancing both safety for listeners and freedom for creators. We have detailed content policies in place and we’ve removed over 20,000 podcast episodes related to Covid since the start of the pandemic”.
Young also posted a statement to his website saying, "Most of the listeners hearing the unfactual, misleading and false COVID information on SPOTIFY are 24 years old, impressionable, and easy to swing to the wrong side of the truth. These young people believe SPOTIFY would never present grossly unfactual information. They unfortunately are wrong. I knew I had to try to point that out,” Young continued.
Following Young’s exit from Spotify, Joni Mitchell stated on her website; "Irresponsible people are spreading lies that are costing people their lives. I stand in solidarity with Neil Young and the global scientific and medical communities on this issue”. That same day, Young posted another statement to his website stating; "I support free speech. I have never been in favor of censorship. 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. 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”.
Rogan responded in an Instagram video on Jan. 30, saying; "I'm not trying to promote misinformation, I'm not trying to be controversial. I've never tried to do anything with this podcast other than just talk to people and have interesting conversations".
That same day, Spotify stated that they would begin adding content advisories to any podcast episode that contains information about Covid-19, which will direct users to their dedicated Covid-19 hub with links to trusted sources.
India Arie, a musician and podcaster, announced that she would be removing her music and podcast on Jan. 31 in a post to her Instagram saying; "Neil Young opened a door that I MUST walk through. I believe in freedom of speech. However, I find Joe Rogan problematic for reasons OTHER than his Covid interviews… FOR ME IT’S ALSO HIS language around race”.
Mary Trump, a podcaster, author and niece of former president Donald Trump, also joined Young on Feb. 1 by removing her podcast from the platform. She showed her thanks in a tweet for Young and Mitchell for their, "courage in leading the way”.
On Feb. 2, David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash posted a statement to Crosby’s Twitter account showing their support of Young by also removing their music from Spotify stating; "While we always value alternate points of view, knowingly spreading disinformation during this global pandemic has deadly consequences”.