Harry, Meghan Markle Urge Spotify to Address COVID Misinformation

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Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s Archewell production company said they are continuing to press Spotify to make changes to address the “serious harms” presented by COVID misinformation on its platform.

The erstwhile British royal couple have an exclusive multiyear podcast deal with Spotify, although to date they have released only one short holiday audio special.

In a statement Sunday, Archewell said Harry and Meghan first reached out to Spotify in April 2021 to express “concerns” about “the all-too-real consequences of COVID-19 misinformation on its platform.” The statement did not call out Joe Rogan, but it was last April when the extremely popular podcaster drew widespread criticism after he suggested people don’t need to get COVID vaccines if they are young and healthy on “The Joe Rogan Experience,” which is exclusively distributed by Spotify.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, who last year officially parted ways with the British Royal Family, are speaking out on the issue after Spotify removed Neil Young’s catalog from the streamer last week due to his objections over Spotify’s distribution of the Rogan podcast. “Spotify has recently become a very damaging force via its public misinformation and lies about COVID,” Young said, citing an open letter from 260-plus health professionals calling on Spotify to crack down on coronavirus falsehoods in Rogan’s podcast. Subsequently, Joni Mitchell also said she would be removing her music from Spotify.

“Since the inception of Archewell, we have worked to address the real-time global misinformation crisis,” an Archewell rep said in a statement. “Hundreds of millions of people are affected by the serious harms of rampant mis- and disinformation every day. Last April, our co-founders began expressing concerns to our partners at Spotify about the all-too-real consequences of COVID-19 misinformation on its platform. We have continued to express our concerns to Spotify to ensure changes to its platform are made to help address this public health crisis. We look to Spotify to meet this moment and are committed to continuing our work together as it does.”

Meanwhile, on Saturday (Jan. 29), author and researcher Dr. Brené Brown — who has an exclusive podcast deal with Spotify for two shows — said she was halting her podcasts indefinitely. She didn’t provide a reason for the decision.

“I will not be releasing any podcasts until further notice,” Brown said in a tweet. “To our #UnlockingUs and #DaretoLead communities, I’m sorry and I’ll let you know if and when that changes.”

Under Spotify’s current policy banning COVID misinformation, the company’s moderation team is supposed to remove content from its platform that “promotes dangerous false, deceptive or misleading content about COVID-19 that may cause offline harm and/or pose a direct threat to public health.” Spotify has told partners that the company has removed more than 20,000 podcast episodes for violating the COVID misinformation policy since the beginning of the pandemic.

Harry and Meghan’s Archewell pacted with Spotify in 2020 to produce exclusive podcasts that “build community through shared experience, narratives and values.” Since then, Archewell has been mum on what shows it has in development for podcast, but recently Spotify’s Gimlet has posted job listings seeking to hire a new team to produce a weekly podcast show with Archewell featuring “high-profile women.”

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