Spotify Officially Unveils ‘Safety Advisory Council’ Following Joe Rogan Controversies

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Photo Credit: Magnus Hoij / CC by 2.0

About six weeks after bringing on a number of “trust and safety” hires as part of a larger plan to enhance its content-moderation efforts, Spotify has officially launched a “Safety Advisory Council.”

The Stockholm-based audio-entertainment platform, which has found itself in the center of multiple controversies as the exclusive home of The Joe Rogan Experience, just recently unveiled and detailed the Safety Advisory Council.

According to higher-ups, the newly announced entity is “the first safety-focused council of its type at any major audio company” and will work “to help Spotify evolve its policies and products in a safe way while making sure we respect creator expression.”

Though the Spotify Safety Advisory Council’s members are “individuals and organizations around the world with deep expertise in areas that are key to navigating the online safety space,” they won’t “make enforcement decisions about specific content or creators,” execs relayed.

Instead, these members are poised to advise Spotify “teams in key areas like policy and safety-feature development” and guide the streaming giant’s “approach to equity, impact, and academic research,” per the text.

“Their 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 disclosed of its Safety Advisory Council members. “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.”

Regarding the founding members of the council, though, Spotify has debuted the oversight body with organizations including the Center for Democracy and Technology, the Dangerous Speech Project, the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, and Dublin’s Kinzen. (Several of the initially noted “trust and safety” hires were based out of Ireland.)

Individual council partners currently include Danielle Citron, The Cult of the Constitution author Mary Anne Franks, Jonas Kaiser (whose past research has “focused on climate change skepticism in Germany and the far-right in Germany and the United States”), Facebook Oversight Board member Ronaldo Lemos, and Christer Mattsson (“an internationally recognized scholar in the field of neo-Nazism and right-wing extremism”).

Rounding out the council’s inaugural members on the non-organization side are Tanu Mitra, Desmond Upton Patton, Alex Holmes, and Megan Phelps-Roper.

While Spotify didn’t expressly mention Joe Rogan in the Safety Advisory Council’s announcement message, the aforementioned controversies, along with the backgrounds and highly partisan social-media posts of most members, suggest that the development is directly related to negative headlines generated by the comedian’s ultra-popular podcast.

And with Rogan having threatened to quit podcasting if he’s made to “walk on eggshells,” it’ll be interesting to follow Spotify’s balancing act – between alienating Rogan on the one hand and addressing Safety Advisory Council recommendations on the other – moving forward.

More immediately, perhaps the Safety Advisory Council can help Spotify to reconsider whether rapping about “the courage and bravery of the 3rd Reich and its heroic mysticism” constitutes hate speech, or whether giving a platform to artists accused of shooting other artists inhibits Spotify’s pursuit of a safe digital environment.