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Joni Mitchell pulls music from Spotify in stand with Neil Young against covid misinformation

In 2021, Joni Mitchell was honored at the 44th Kennedy Center Honors in Washington, D.C. (Samuel Corum/AFP/Getty Images)

Canadian singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell has become the latest artist to demand that her work be removed from music streaming service Spotify, in protest over coronavirus misinformation she said was being featured there.

She said she stood in solidarity with fellow artist Neil Young, who made headlines this week when he posted a letter on his website demanding that his catalogue of songs be removed from Spotify in response to “fake information about vaccines” on the platform.

“I’ve decided to remove all my music from Spotify,” Mitchell wrote in a brief statement on her website on Friday. “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.”

The singer, who last year celebrated the 50-year anniversary of her album “Blue,” also linked to an open letter signed by medical and scientific professionals calling on Spotify to “immediately establish a clear and public policy to moderate misinformation on its platform.”

Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, podcaster Brené Brown and more are standing up to Spotify for allowing Joe Rogan to keep airing coronavirus misinformation. (Video: Allie Caren/The Washington Post)

The letter explicitly names “The Joe Rogan Experience” podcast hosted by Joe Rogan, and a particular episode featuring guest doctor Robert Malone, “for promoting baseless conspiracy theories.” The letter said the podcast had a “concerning history of broadcasting misinformation, particularly regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The letter, signed by more than 270 experts, accused Spotify of “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.”

Spotify did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Washington Post, but in a statement a Spotify spokesperson told The Post earlier this week: “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-19 since the start of the pandemic.”

Competitor streaming service Apple Music capitalized on the moment, calling itself “the home of Neil Young” and tweeting a link on Thursday to his catalogue of music still available.

Joe Rogan is using his wildly popular podcast to question vaccines. Experts are fighting back.

Young, a Canadian rock star whose best-known hits include “Heart of Gold,” “Harvest Moon” and “Rockin’ in the Free World,” had about 6.6 million monthly listeners on the platform. His letter, which has since been deleted, was addressed to his manager and an executive at his record label and cited podcaster Rogan as part of his issue with Spotify.

“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. “Please act on this immediately today and keep me informed of the time schedule.”

The letter continued: “I want you to let Spotify know immediately TODAY that I want all my music off their platform. They can have Rogan or Young. Not both.”

Rogan, who helms one of the most popular podcasts on Spotify, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Post.

He has been accused by critics of spreading misinformation about the coronavirus vaccine to his estimated 11 million listeners per episode. In September, he discussed catching covid-19 himself and treating it with a number of therapeutics, including ivermectin, a medication used to kill parasites in animals and humans, which is not authorized or approved by either the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the Food and Drug Administration to treat covid. In December, Rogan invited Robert Malone, a physician who has become a prominent skeptic of the coronavirus vaccines, to appear on his show, causing controversy.

Rogan also came under fire in April for suggesting that healthy, young people shouldn’t get vaccinated but also stated: “I’m not an anti-vax person. In fact, I said I believe they’re safe and I encourage many people to take 'em,” in an episode with comedian Andrew Santino. “I just said, I don’t think that if you’re a young, healthy person, that you need it.”

Spotify pulls Neil Young’s music after his ultimatum regarding Joe Rogan and ‘fake information about vaccines’

Mitchell, 78, like Young is a California-based songwriter who hails from Canada and enjoyed wide success in the 1970s. Known for hits such as “Big Yellow Taxi” and “A Case of You,” she has about 3.7 million monthly listeners on Spotify.

In a message on his website Friday, Young said that when he left Spotify “I felt better.” He added: “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.”

So far, more than 876,000 people have died of covid-19 in the United States, and more than 74,015,000 cases of coronavirus have been reported, according to a Post tracker.

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