The pressure on Spotify to address Covid misinformation increased over the weekend when Joni Mitchell, an icon with huge influence among artists including Brandi Carlile and Taylor Swift, joined Neil Young’s boycott. Trying to stop the exodus from gaining momentum, Spotify announced that it would add advisories to podcasts discussing COVID-19. This move does nothing to stop the spread of misinformation. In fact, by attaching them to all podcasts that discuss Covid, the advisories actually elevate false information to the same level as accurate information. The bullshit gets the same label as the truth, so you can do your own research. Joe Rogan responded to the controversy with a ten-minute video in which he explained, “If there’s anything that I’ve done that I could do better, it’s having more experts with differing opinions right after I have the controversial ones. I would most certainly be open to doing that. And I would like to talk to some people who have differing opinions on the podcasts in the future.” While Rogan is searching for the truth and Spotify is honing in on its Covid content labels, thousands upon thousands of Americans are needlessly dying because of false information that tens of millions of them can’t get enough of.

This story is bigger than Joe Rogan, Spotify, and Neil Young. The real issue we need to address is why so many people place a higher value on hogwash spread by non-experts (to put it kindly) than the latest science offered by scientists—even when the latter group’s views are repeatedly validated in the harshest possible way.

First, false information can be honed to satisfy recipients. Hannah Arendt wrote: “Lies are often much more plausible, more appealing to reason, than reality, since the liar has the great advantage of knowing beforehand what the audience wishes or expects to hear.” Second, fake messages travel much faster than the real news. In 2018, MIT’s Sinan Aral, Soroush Vosoughi, and Deb Roy crunched the tweets and delivered research that “found that falsehood diffuses significantly farther, faster, deeper, and more broadly than the truth, in all categories of information, and in many cases by an order of magnitude.” Third, sharing fake news is more gratifying, as explained in this NYT Gift Article from Stuart A Thompson and Charlie Warzel, that was written a year ago but that sadly remains as timely as ever. They Used to Post Selfies. Now They’re Trying to Reverse the Election. “A journey through their feeds offers a glimpse of how Facebook rewards exaggerations and lies.” Much of the above is drawn from my book, Please Scream Inside Your Heart, where I summarize that fake news is cheaper than real news. Fake news spreads faster than real news. Sharing fake news is more immediately gratifying than sharing real news. And fake news is more satisfying to those who receive it. People are not only attracted to false information, they’re willing to bet their life on it. That’s a reality that can’t just be de-platformed or solved with content advisories.

+ Bonus: At one point during his video statement, Joe Rogan said, “I love Joni Mitchell,” and then sung a brief line from a song … by Ricki Lee Jones. (Going with Joni’s “A Case of You” was such an obvious pick!) Spotify better put a content advisory on Rogan’s song knowledge, too. After all, they used to be a music service.