Recommended Reading: Speaking Simlish

Sul Sul

Twenty Thousand Hertz

This podcast chronicles the fascinating story of how Simlish, the language spoken by characters in the popular game franchise The Sims, was created. And not only the how, but why it worked well and how it became a popular choice for musicians. 

How 'Encanto' explains America

Tom McTague, The Atlantic

"Having watched the new release (twice) with my little one recently — and then listened to its soundtrack on repeat ever since — the message seems fairly clear: America is broken (but don’t worry, all is not lost)," McTague writes.

Caroline Spiegel’s porn revolution

Annie Goldsmith, The Information

The sister of Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel is preaching the gospel of audio porn through Quinn, an app that offers an aural take on erotica. 

Weber’s 2022 smart grill lineup includes gas and pellet options

Grilling season will be here before you know it, so one of the biggest names in backyard cooking is tipping its hand for spring. Today, Weber announced it's 2022 lineup of smart grills with options for cooks who prefer gas or pellet-burning options. No matter the fuel source, all of the new models teased here are equipped with the company's WiFi-enabled Weber Connect technology. With it, you can control and monitor your grill from your phone, keeping tabs on the cooking process while you work on side dishes or relax with guests. 

Weber Connect was first available on the Smart Grilling Hub, but its big debut came on the first-gen SmokeFire pellet grills. The technology not only provides recipes, but it also guides you through the entire cooking process on a step-by-step basis, from how to prepare meat to when to flip and how long to rest before slicing. In a bid to outsmart the competition, the app also provides estimated doneness times so you're not left guessing when that brisket will finally hit 205 degrees Fahrenheit. In 2021, the company brought the technology to its Genesis line of gas grills, offering the same convenience as SmokeFire with a more commonly used fuel source — plus the ability to monitor your propane tank level. 

For 2022, Weber is taking convenience a step further with a range of new Genesis gas grills and a new version of SmokeFire. First, the Genesis lineup of smart grills still feature Weber Connect on top of PureBlu high-heat burners, sear zone, side table, expandable top cooking grate and "Nightvision." As the name implies that last item allows you to see the grilling surface after dark, with motion-sensing LEDs that can illuminate the entire cooking area when you open the lid — including the side tables/burner. The lights are on the reverse side of the handle, with a power button on outside to turn them completely off. Weber says the new Genesis models will come in both three- and four-burner options as well as models with porcelain-enamel or stainless steel finishes. 

Weber SmokeFire Stealth Edition
Weber

For the SmokeFire pellet grill this year, Weber is going all black. Dubbed the Stealth Edition, the black-on-black color scheme nixes the silver accents from the original along the sides of the lid, the side shelf and the handles. Weber Connect is still on board, helping you with everything from high heat searing to low-and-slow smoking. The overall design is the same, except for the addition of an interior light for better visibility. As someone who has used a SmokeFire grill before sunrise and after dark, some built-in illumination is a welcome change. 

Alongside the grills, Weber is also introducing new accessories it's calling Weber Crafted. The collection of tools includes a dual-sided sear grate, flat-top griddle, baking stone (for pizza, etc), roasting basket, wok/steamer combo and rotisserie skewers. Special grates and an insert allow you to swap out the accessories on charcoal, gas or pellet grills. The company explains that these add-ons let you steam, bake, roast and more, and you can do so on the grill rather than having to venture inside. Plus, the new Genesis grills have a compartment and hooks for storing the new goods. No word on pricing yet, but each item will be sold separately when they arrive this spring.

The new Genesis models and the Stealth Edition of SmokeFire will also go on sale this spring. The former will range from $1,049-$2,149 while the latter is $1,399. 

Weber’s 2022 smart grill lineup includes gas and pellet options

Grilling season will be here before you know it, so one of the biggest names in backyard cooking is tipping its hand for spring. Today, Weber announced it's 2022 lineup of smart grills with options for cooks who prefer gas or pellet-burning options. No matter the fuel source, all of the new models teased here are equipped with the company's WiFi-enabled Weber Connect technology. With it, you can control and monitor your grill from your phone, keeping tabs on the cooking process while you work on side dishes or relax with guests. 

Weber Connect was first available on the Smart Grilling Hub, but its big debut came on the first-gen SmokeFire pellet grills. The technology not only provides recipes, but it also guides you through the entire cooking process on a step-by-step basis, from how to prepare meat to when to flip and how long to rest before slicing. In a bid to outsmart the competition, the app also provides estimated doneness times so you're not left guessing when that brisket will finally hit 205 degrees Fahrenheit. In 2021, the company brought the technology to its Genesis line of gas grills, offering the same convenience as SmokeFire with a more commonly used fuel source — plus the ability to monitor your propane tank level. 

For 2022, Weber is taking convenience a step further with a range of new Genesis gas grills and a new version of SmokeFire. First, the Genesis lineup of smart grills still feature Weber Connect on top of PureBlu high-heat burners, sear zone, side table, expandable top cooking grate and "Nightvision." As the name implies that last item allows you to see the grilling surface after dark, with motion-sensing LEDs that can illuminate the entire cooking area when you open the lid — including the side tables/burner. The lights are on the reverse side of the handle, with a power button on outside to turn them completely off. Weber says the new Genesis models will come in both three- and four-burner options as well as models with porcelain-enamel or stainless steel finishes. 

Weber SmokeFire Stealth Edition
Weber

For the SmokeFire pellet grill this year, Weber is going all black. Dubbed the Stealth Edition, the black-on-black color scheme nixes the silver accents from the original along the sides of the lid, the side shelf and the handles. Weber Connect is still on board, helping you with everything from high heat searing to low-and-slow smoking. The overall design is the same, except for the addition of an interior light for better visibility. As someone who has used a SmokeFire grill before sunrise and after dark, some built-in illumination is a welcome change. 

Alongside the grills, Weber is also introducing new accessories it's calling Weber Crafted. The collection of tools includes a dual-sided sear grate, flat-top griddle, baking stone (for pizza, etc), roasting basket, wok/steamer combo and rotisserie skewers. Special grates and an insert allow you to swap out the accessories on charcoal, gas or pellet grills. The company explains that these add-ons let you steam, bake, roast and more, and you can do so on the grill rather than having to venture inside. Plus, the new Genesis grills have a compartment and hooks for storing the new goods. No word on pricing yet, but each item will be sold separately when they arrive this spring.

The new Genesis models and the Stealth Edition of SmokeFire will also go on sale this spring. The former will range from $1,049-$2,149 while the latter is $1,399. 

Recommended Reading: 2022 should be a big year for animated films

The post-Spider-Verse revolution feels alive in 2022’s animation slate

Alicia Haddick, Polygon

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse was a game-changer for animated films. It blended 2D and CG masterfully, creating a new vision for what movies could be. As we venture into 2022, there's a massive slate of films that will continue to push boundaries — including Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (Part One).

The subversive genius of extremely slow email

Ian Bogost, The Atlantic

An email app sends and receives email more like you would snail mail: once per day. Could subversive projects like this provide relief from the instant interaction Big Tech has transformed our lives into? And if they do, will we be content with the results?

Ailing Amazon workers struggle to find COVID tests themselves

Louise Matsakis, NBC News

Amazon was providing on-site COVID-19 testing at its facilities during the pandemic, but with cases surging to all-time highs, the company's workforce is struggling to get what they need to clock in safely. 

Recommended Reading: 2022 should be a big year for animated films

The post-Spider-Verse revolution feels alive in 2022’s animation slate

Alicia Haddick, Polygon

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse was a game-changer for animated films. It blended 2D and CG masterfully, creating a new vision for what movies could be. As we venture into 2022, there's a massive slate of films that will continue to push boundaries — including Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (Part One).

The subversive genius of extremely slow email

Ian Bogost, The Atlantic

An email app sends and receives email more like you would snail mail: once per day. Could subversive projects like this provide relief from the instant interaction Big Tech has transformed our lives into? And if they do, will we be content with the results?

Ailing Amazon workers struggle to find COVID tests themselves

Louise Matsakis, NBC News

Amazon was providing on-site COVID-19 testing at its facilities during the pandemic, but with cases surging to all-time highs, the company's workforce is struggling to get what they need to clock in safely. 

Jabra Elite 4 Active review: Checking a lot boxes for $120

I review a lot of true wireless earbuds, so I’m always curious what the next trends will be when companies offer their annual refresh for new products. Over the last few years, smaller sizes, better battery life and hands-free features have become the norm, but there’s only so much you can do on such a tiny device.

In 2021, Jabra set the new standard for affordable wireless earbuds with the Elite 3. At $80, it covers most of the basics quite well.Now the company is improving its mid-range option with the Elite 4 Active. It’s a more workout-focused model, complete with active noise cancellation (ANC) and enough moisture protection for the sweatiest of sessions. Like it did last year, Jabra is seeking to not only make its true wireless lineup compelling in terms of features and performance, but to also make the price more competitive. This $120 model delivers a lot of options that we typically see on earbuds that go for $150-$180.

The Elite 4 Active carries Jabra’s new design that debuted on the Elite 3, Elite 7 Active and Elite 7 Pro last year. Instead of a mostly circular earbud with an elbow that holds the microphones, the company switched to a rounded triangle shape that offers a cleaner look. Most importantly, all of Jabra’s latest earbuds are significantly smaller than their predecessors and the Elite 4 Active continues that trend. The smaller size not only means these buds don’t stick out from your ears as much, but they’re also lighter and more comfy.

I wouldn’t blame you for mistaking the Elite 4 Active for the Elite 3. Aesthetically, the main difference is the outer panel on the 3 is one big button, while that area on the 4 Active is seamless. The button is there, but it’s sealed off. Jabra increased the water resistance to IP57 for this model, and the onboard controls are one area where it had to increase protection. Of course, Jabra has always designed its earbuds with the Active label for workouts. Better sweat protection is usually part of that formula.

Jabra continues to revamp its true wireless lineup with compelling options at affordable prices. With the Elite 4 Active, you get upgrades like ANC and better water resistance over the base model Elite 3. Sound quality is good and battery life is solid, which helps make up for the lack of premium conveniences.
Billy Steele/Engadget

The lack of a defined panel or button proved to be an issue for me when accessing the controls. I had to train myself to remember to press in the middle of the earbud as getting too far to the top or bottom wouldn’t register my actions. The outer surface of the Elite 4 Active is completely smooth, without so much as a raised dot to indicate you’re in the right place. Over time I might get used to this, but after a couple weeks of testing, I’m still not nailing it consistently.

Like every other Jabra model, you can tailor the Elite 4 Active to your needs via the company’s Sound+ app. Since this set is Jabra’s mid-range option, you get more features than the entry-level Elite 3, but not quite as much as the Elite 7 Pro or Elite 7 Active. First, there’s ANC and it’s customizable. Notice I didn’t say adjustable. Specifically, the app lets you set a level of noise cancellation during initial setup. You can also tweak the balance if you need more on one side than the other. Jabra will allow you to repeat this process if you need to, but there’s no easily accessible slider like the Elite 7 models.

The company’s transparency mode, HearThrough, can be controlled in the app via a slider. In fact, you can even set what the on-board control for sound mode does (single press on the left side). You can have it cycle through HearThrough and ANC, HearThrough and off or HearThrough, ANC and off. The app also allows you to turn on and off Sidetone, which lets you hear your voice when you’re on a call. Unlike some Jabra models, it isn’t adjustable – just all or nothing. Still, being able to hear yourself so you’re a bit less shouty over Zoom is better for everyone. The company’s own Find My feature returns as well, helping you locate a misplaced earbud if you’re willing to give it the proper permissions. And on Android, you can opt for one-touch access to Spotify if that’s your preferred streaming service.

Jabra continues to revamp its true wireless lineup with compelling options at affordable prices. With the Elite 4 Active, you get upgrades like ANC and better water resistance over the base model Elite 3. Sound quality is good and battery life is solid, which helps make up for the lack of premium conveniences.
Billy Steele/Engadget

For a $120 set of earbuds, I wouldn’t blame you for not expecting too much in the sound department. However, Jabra has a track record of solid audio across its true wireless lineup. With the Elite 4 Active, the company maintains its reputation for buds that sound good, but not great. There’s decent clarity and nice detail, but they lack the wider soundstage and depth pricier models from the likes of Sony and Sennheiser offer.

The Elite 4 Active has pretty good sonic range, but big bombastic tracks like Run The Jewels “Mean Demeanor” and Gojira’s “Another World” sound overly compressed. The bass is solid and not muddy, so keeping the energy up during workouts with hip hop, EDM, or isn’t a problem. It’s just that on the whole, songs lack the dimensional punch you can find with a bigger investment. For $120 though, the Elite 4 Active gets the job done in most cases.

If you find yourself yearning to tweak the EQ, you can do that in the Sound+ app via a set of sliders. If one-tap audio changes are more your style, Jabra also offers a collection of presets for quick customization. It’s not the most robust set of options for dialing in the sound, but it’s more than you get on the ultra affordable Elite 3.

One advantage the Elite 4 Active has over the Elite 3 is active noise cancellation. As I mentioned, you can customize the feature to a degree, but it’s not as powerful as what’s on Jabra’s pricer earbuds. Still, the ANC here will help block out some distractions, just don’t expect it to do a lot of heavy lifting.

The Elite 4 Active has four microphones for calls. Jabra says they’re covered with a “special mesh” to reduce wind noise when you’re outdoors. Typically, mileage varies greatly on call quality with true wireless earbuds. Most of the time you just end up sounding like you’re on speakerphone. With the Elite 4 Active, the call quality is slightly better, but still not as good as if you had a microphone closer to your mouth – or even pointed more towards your face. Background noise is reduced when you’re talking, but any environmental roar is distracting when you’re not.

Jabra says you can expect up to seven hours of battery life on the Elite 4 Active, with three additional charges in the case for a total of 28 hours. The company doesn’t specify whether or not that’s with ANC on, but in my tests I managed seven and a half hours with noise canceling active. It’s by no means the best battery life you’ll find in true wireless earbuds, but it’s certainly enough to get you through a workday if you take a break or two. If you run out of juice before you head out the door, a quick charge feature gives you an hour of use in 10 minutes.

At $120, Jabra is offering solid mid-range specs at the same price as some companies’ budget models. What’s more, most of those don’t offer ANC, let alone a transparency mode or customizable sound. Samsung put noise canceling inside of its cheapest true wireless model with the Galaxy Buds 2. These earbuds are tiny and comfy and wireless charging is included, but the ANC performance is just okay. Plus, the Galaxy Buds 2 are only IPX2 rated, so you’ll want to be careful about how wet you get them. Full price they’re $150, but we’ve seen them as low as $100.

If you’re looking to maximize your dollars, I’d suggest looking into Anker’s Soundcore line. You can find a lot of value, and features, for well under $100 there. Plus, the company’s top-of-the-line flagship ANC model, the Liberty 3 Pro, is only $170. And if you’re good with passive noise isolation, Jabra’s own Elite 3 can get the job done for $60.

If Jabra’s new mission is to deliver the same overall quality as its previous earbuds at more affordable prices, I’m here for it. With the Elite 4 Active, as it did with the Elite 3, the company has managed to offer a compelling set of features at a great price. It hasn’t cut corners to do so, improving details like design and fit while maintaining its standard for sound quality. There are some omissions, but all the basics are covered and for the most part done well. Once again, we have more evidence that you don’t need to spend over $150 in order to get a set of good true wireless earbuds.

Jabra Elite 4 Active review: Checking a lot boxes for $120

I review a lot of true wireless earbuds, so I’m always curious what the next trends will be when companies offer their annual refresh for new products. Over the last few years, smaller sizes, better battery life and hands-free features have become the norm, but there’s only so much you can do on such a tiny device.

In 2021, Jabra set the new standard for affordable wireless earbuds with the Elite 3. At $80, it covers most of the basics quite well.Now the company is improving its mid-range option with the Elite 4 Active. It’s a more workout-focused model, complete with active noise cancellation (ANC) and enough moisture protection for the sweatiest of sessions. Like it did last year, Jabra is seeking to not only make its true wireless lineup compelling in terms of features and performance, but to also make the price more competitive. This $120 model delivers a lot of options that we typically see on earbuds that go for $150-$180.

The Elite 4 Active carries Jabra’s new design that debuted on the Elite 3, Elite 7 Active and Elite 7 Pro last year. Instead of a mostly circular earbud with an elbow that holds the microphones, the company switched to a rounded triangle shape that offers a cleaner look. Most importantly, all of Jabra’s latest earbuds are significantly smaller than their predecessors and the Elite 4 Active continues that trend. The smaller size not only means these buds don’t stick out from your ears as much, but they’re also lighter and more comfy.

I wouldn’t blame you for mistaking the Elite 4 Active for the Elite 3. Aesthetically, the main difference is the outer panel on the 3 is one big button, while that area on the 4 Active is seamless. The button is there, but it’s sealed off. Jabra increased the water resistance to IP57 for this model, and the onboard controls are one area where it had to increase protection. Of course, Jabra has always designed its earbuds with the Active label for workouts. Better sweat protection is usually part of that formula.

Jabra continues to revamp its true wireless lineup with compelling options at affordable prices. With the Elite 4 Active, you get upgrades like ANC and better water resistance over the base model Elite 3. Sound quality is good and battery life is solid, which helps make up for the lack of premium conveniences.
Billy Steele/Engadget

The lack of a defined panel or button proved to be an issue for me when accessing the controls. I had to train myself to remember to press in the middle of the earbud as getting too far to the top or bottom wouldn’t register my actions. The outer surface of the Elite 4 Active is completely smooth, without so much as a raised dot to indicate you’re in the right place. Over time I might get used to this, but after a couple weeks of testing, I’m still not nailing it consistently.

Like every other Jabra model, you can tailor the Elite 4 Active to your needs via the company’s Sound+ app. Since this set is Jabra’s mid-range option, you get more features than the entry-level Elite 3, but not quite as much as the Elite 7 Pro or Elite 7 Active. First, there’s ANC and it’s customizable. Notice I didn’t say adjustable. Specifically, the app lets you set a level of noise cancellation during initial setup. You can also tweak the balance if you need more on one side than the other. Jabra will allow you to repeat this process if you need to, but there’s no easily accessible slider like the Elite 7 models.

The company’s transparency mode, HearThrough, can be controlled in the app via a slider. In fact, you can even set what the on-board control for sound mode does (single press on the left side). You can have it cycle through HearThrough and ANC, HearThrough and off or HearThrough, ANC and off. The app also allows you to turn on and off Sidetone, which lets you hear your voice when you’re on a call. Unlike some Jabra models, it isn’t adjustable – just all or nothing. Still, being able to hear yourself so you’re a bit less shouty over Zoom is better for everyone. The company’s own Find My feature returns as well, helping you locate a misplaced earbud if you’re willing to give it the proper permissions. And on Android, you can opt for one-touch access to Spotify if that’s your preferred streaming service.

Jabra continues to revamp its true wireless lineup with compelling options at affordable prices. With the Elite 4 Active, you get upgrades like ANC and better water resistance over the base model Elite 3. Sound quality is good and battery life is solid, which helps make up for the lack of premium conveniences.
Billy Steele/Engadget

For a $120 set of earbuds, I wouldn’t blame you for not expecting too much in the sound department. However, Jabra has a track record of solid audio across its true wireless lineup. With the Elite 4 Active, the company maintains its reputation for buds that sound good, but not great. There’s decent clarity and nice detail, but they lack the wider soundstage and depth pricier models from the likes of Sony and Sennheiser offer.

The Elite 4 Active has pretty good sonic range, but big bombastic tracks like Run The Jewels “Mean Demeanor” and Gojira’s “Another World” sound overly compressed. The bass is solid and not muddy, so keeping the energy up during workouts with hip hop, EDM, or isn’t a problem. It’s just that on the whole, songs lack the dimensional punch you can find with a bigger investment. For $120 though, the Elite 4 Active gets the job done in most cases.

If you find yourself yearning to tweak the EQ, you can do that in the Sound+ app via a set of sliders. If one-tap audio changes are more your style, Jabra also offers a collection of presets for quick customization. It’s not the most robust set of options for dialing in the sound, but it’s more than you get on the ultra affordable Elite 3.

One advantage the Elite 4 Active has over the Elite 3 is active noise cancellation. As I mentioned, you can customize the feature to a degree, but it’s not as powerful as what’s on Jabra’s pricer earbuds. Still, the ANC here will help block out some distractions, just don’t expect it to do a lot of heavy lifting.

The Elite 4 Active has four microphones for calls. Jabra says they’re covered with a “special mesh” to reduce wind noise when you’re outdoors. Typically, mileage varies greatly on call quality with true wireless earbuds. Most of the time you just end up sounding like you’re on speakerphone. With the Elite 4 Active, the call quality is slightly better, but still not as good as if you had a microphone closer to your mouth – or even pointed more towards your face. Background noise is reduced when you’re talking, but any environmental roar is distracting when you’re not.

Jabra says you can expect up to seven hours of battery life on the Elite 4 Active, with three additional charges in the case for a total of 28 hours. The company doesn’t specify whether or not that’s with ANC on, but in my tests I managed seven and a half hours with noise canceling active. It’s by no means the best battery life you’ll find in true wireless earbuds, but it’s certainly enough to get you through a workday if you take a break or two. If you run out of juice before you head out the door, a quick charge feature gives you an hour of use in 10 minutes.

At $120, Jabra is offering solid mid-range specs at the same price as some companies’ budget models. What’s more, most of those don’t offer ANC, let alone a transparency mode or customizable sound. Samsung put noise canceling inside of its cheapest true wireless model with the Galaxy Buds 2. These earbuds are tiny and comfy and wireless charging is included, but the ANC performance is just okay. Plus, the Galaxy Buds 2 are only IPX2 rated, so you’ll want to be careful about how wet you get them. Full price they’re $150, but we’ve seen them as low as $100.

If you’re looking to maximize your dollars, I’d suggest looking into Anker’s Soundcore line. You can find a lot of value, and features, for well under $100 there. Plus, the company’s top-of-the-line flagship ANC model, the Liberty 3 Pro, is only $170. And if you’re good with passive noise isolation, Jabra’s own Elite 3 can get the job done for $60.

If Jabra’s new mission is to deliver the same overall quality as its previous earbuds at more affordable prices, I’m here for it. With the Elite 4 Active, as it did with the Elite 3, the company has managed to offer a compelling set of features at a great price. It hasn’t cut corners to do so, improving details like design and fit while maintaining its standard for sound quality. There are some omissions, but all the basics are covered and for the most part done well. Once again, we have more evidence that you don’t need to spend over $150 in order to get a set of good true wireless earbuds.

Doctors and scientists call on Spotify to create misinformation policy

Doctors, health experts and scientists battle COVID-19 misinformation on daily basis. Platforms like Facebook and Twitter have adopted policies in an effort to curtail rampant false claims, but some don't have rules in place. A group of 270 doctors, nurses, scientists and educators have sent an open letter to Spotify following a recent episode of TheJoe Rogan Experience, calling for the streaming service to adopt a clear policy and to fulfill its "responsibility to mitigate the spread of misinformation." 

On the December 31st episode of his podcast, Joe Rogan interviewed Dr. Robert Malone, a virologist who says he's one of the creators of mRNA technology. It's unclear whether that's true. During the chat, Malone made baseless claims about COVID-19, including the idea that "mass formation psychosis" led people to believe the vaccines were effective and the notion that President Biden had withheld data that supported ivermectin as a valid treatment. The episode quickly went viral among both critics and fans as Rogan averages over 10 million listeners per episode. YouTube removed a video of the interview and Malone was recently banned from Twitter for violations of the platform's COVID-19 misinformation policy.

"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," the letter explains. "[The episode] is not the only transgression to occur on the Spotify platform, but a relevant example of the platform’s failure to mitigate the damage it is causing."

In April, The Verge reported that Spotify was okay with a Rogan episode on which he encouraged 21-year-olds to not get vaccinated. A company source indicated the message wasn't "outwardly anti-vaccine" and he didn't "make a call to action," The Verge's Ashley Carman wrote at the time. Spotify has taken down more explicit examples of vaccine misinformation, including a song from musician Ian Brown and a podcast from Pete Evans. The company has said in the past that it "prohibits content on the platform which promotes dangerous false, deceptive, or misleading content about COVID-19 that may cause offline harm and/or pose a direct threat to public health." And that when something violates those guidelines, it is removed.

However, as this open letter points out, Spotify doesn't have an official misinformation policy like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and others. The group is asking for the platform to do just that, rather than to directly take action against Rogan or remove the episode in question. They want the company to create rules that would hold podcast creators accountable for the content of their shows.

Spotify paid a reported $100 million to lock down The Joe Rogan Experience as an exclusive podcast in 2020. The show was the most popular on the platform in 2021, both in the US and globally. When Rogan faced criticism over his choice of guests, including another example of pandemic misinformation in an episode with Alex Jones, Spotify CEO Daniel Ek said the platform didn't have editorial responsibility over podcasts.

"We have a lot of really well-paid rappers on Spotify too, that make tens of millions of dollars, if not more, each year from Spotify." Ek told Axios. "And we don't dictate what they're putting in their songs, either." 

Spotify didn't respond to Engadget's request for comment on both the open letter and the company's misinformation policies.

Doctors and scientists call on Spotify to create misinformation policy

Doctors, health experts and scientists battle COVID-19 misinformation on daily basis. Platforms like Facebook and Twitter have adopted policies in an effort to curtail rampant false claims, but some don't have rules in place. A group of 270 doctors, nurses, scientists and educators have sent an open letter to Spotify following a recent episode of TheJoe Rogan Experience, calling for the streaming service to adopt a clear policy and to fulfill its "responsibility to mitigate the spread of misinformation." 

On the December 31st episode of his podcast, Joe Rogan interviewed Dr. Robert Malone, a virologist who says he's one of the creators of mRNA technology. It's unclear whether that's true. During the chat, Malone made baseless claims about COVID-19, including the idea that "mass formation psychosis" led people to believe the vaccines were effective and the notion that President Biden had withheld data that supported ivermectin as a valid treatment. The episode quickly went viral among both critics and fans as Rogan averages over 10 million listeners per episode. YouTube removed a video of the interview and Malone was recently banned from Twitter for violations of the platform's COVID-19 misinformation policy.

"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," the letter explains. "[The episode] is not the only transgression to occur on the Spotify platform, but a relevant example of the platform’s failure to mitigate the damage it is causing."

In April, The Verge reported that Spotify was okay with a Rogan episode on which he encouraged 21-year-olds to not get vaccinated. A company source indicated the message wasn't "outwardly anti-vaccine" and he didn't "make a call to action," The Verge's Ashley Carman wrote at the time. Spotify has taken down more explicit examples of vaccine misinformation, including a song from musician Ian Brown and a podcast from Pete Evans. The company has said in the past that it "prohibits content on the platform which promotes dangerous false, deceptive, or misleading content about COVID-19 that may cause offline harm and/or pose a direct threat to public health." And that when something violates those guidelines, it is removed.

However, as this open letter points out, Spotify doesn't have an official misinformation policy like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and others. The group is asking for the platform to do just that, rather than to directly take action against Rogan or remove the episode in question. They want the company to create rules that would hold podcast creators accountable for the content of their shows.

Spotify paid a reported $100 million to lock down The Joe Rogan Experience as an exclusive podcast in 2020. The show was the most popular on the platform in 2021, both in the US and globally. When Rogan faced criticism over his choice of guests, including another example of pandemic misinformation in an episode with Alex Jones, Spotify CEO Daniel Ek said the platform didn't have editorial responsibility over podcasts.

"We have a lot of really well-paid rappers on Spotify too, that make tens of millions of dollars, if not more, each year from Spotify." Ek told Axios. "And we don't dictate what they're putting in their songs, either." 

Spotify didn't respond to Engadget's request for comment on both the open letter and the company's misinformation policies.

Recommended Reading: The fate of Apple and Google’s contact tracing tech

The US digital-contact-tracing debacle

Charlie Warzel, The Atlantic

Unless you live in a few specific states, you likely never got the chance to use the contact tracing system that was the result of an unprecedented collaboration between Apple and Google. As it turns out, there are a few reasons the technology never took off in the US, from privacy concerns among the general public to the inability of the federal government to deviate from its vaccine-or-bust strategy. 

The Athletic set out to destroy newspapers. Then it became one.

Bryan Curtis, The Ringer

The New York Times is spending $550 million on a subscription-based sports media site and its wealth of journalism talent. Not so long ago, its founder told the very paper that bought it he wanted to replace local newspapers, with a plan to "let them continuously bleed until we are the last ones standing." Now the site is part of one of the largest papers in the country.

The epic rise and fall of Elizabeth Holmes

David Streitfeld, The New York Times

Following this week's fraud verdict, a look back at the Theranos executive's decade-long play and some the people she brought along with her.