Spotify is continuing to roll out a coronavirus public health advisory on podcasts that mention COVID-19. The thin blue banner appeared for many users for the first time Monday, though Spotify told Protocol that the advisories began rolling out on Feb. 2.
"On Jan. 30, 2022, Spotify announced plans to add a content advisory to any podcast episode that includes a discussion about COVID-19," a Spotify spokesperson told Protocol. "Three days later, on Feb. 2, we launched the content advisory on our platform and we've been adding it to episodes that include discussion about COVID-19 on a rolling basis ever since. Today, the COVID content advisory appears on ~1.4 million podcast episodes on our platform."
Daniel Ek said at the time that Spotify should not “take on the position of being content censor,” but make “sure that there are rules in place and consequences for those who violate them.” The company immediately published previously hidden platform rules; it's now also fulfilled the promise of rolling out a health advisory, which links to a page of content with information from both the CDC and some of Spotify’s podcasters about the pandemic.
The banner is attached to all podcast episodes that mention COVID, not necessarily just those that contain misinformation. The banner links to a page titled “COVID-19 Guide” that's home to a selection of fact-checked episodes people can listen to. These podcast episodes are divided into three themes: episodes summarizing how the virus works, episodes that feature prominent doctors, and episodes that discuss how the pandemic affects the economy. Most of the podcasts come from well-known studios and news outlets like The Wall Street Journal, NPR and iHeartPodcasts.
It’s unclear how much the banners will curb vaccine skepticism and other effects of misinformation about coronavirus. Similar banners piloted by platforms including Meta, Twitter and YouTube have been a mixed bag: Research suggests that simply labeling misinformation does little, while information-rich fact checks that explain why content is false are significantly more valuable.
A study published in the National Academy of Sciences examining Facebook’s fact-checking system, for example, showed that fact checking content is incredibly valuable, but that the value decreases the more users must seek out this information by clicking through to other web pages.
This story was corrected to reflect that Spotify began rolling out the COVID-19 advisories on Feb. 2, though many users may not have seen them until today, and was updated to include a statement from Spotify. Protocol regrets the error.