Stop playing around, podcast platforms. You’ve got work to do!

Sree Sreenivasan is a leading expert on how technology is changing our lives. He is a professor of Digital Innovation and CEO of Digimentors.
Liberal Opinion

Sree Sreenivasan

Digital Innovation Prof, Stony Brook; CoFounder, Digimentors
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Social media giants are under more pressure than ever to clean up their content, but what about podcast platforms like Apple, iHeart Radio, Spotify, and more? We’ve seen congressional hearings, countless investigative reports, and leaked documents pointing to the ill effects of big social media on all aspects of society, and I’ve talked about what we can do to force companies like Facebook to respond. Some are even predicting doom for these platforms in the year to come.

It’s time we turn the white hot spotlight on podcasts as well.

Covid-19 lies and misinformation, anti-vaxx personalities, and worse are all over the podcast landscapes… and why wouldn’t they be? 

28% of the total U.S. population (about 80 million people) are now considered to be habitual weekly podcast listeners, listening every week, and listenership is up across every demographic. Plus, the barrier to entry is minimal and getting cheaper by the day. 

It shouldn’t be much of a surprise. After all, right-wing media has owned the talk radio airwaves for decades, and podcasts are the natural extension of that. Which brings us to the same debate we keep having about the social media giants — are they just platforms? 

Podcasts seem much much closer to “traditional media” as we think about that phrase and a lot of podcasts would suffer mightily if they were dropped from Apple, iHeart, Spotify, and other platforms.

Like the social media giants, podcasts are online, so the F.C.C. has no authority to regulate much of anything.

In most cases, that’s just fine. In a very few dangerous cases, it isn’t. 

There is still a troubling amount of overt hate online, but there is a sophistication to modern disinformation campaigns that calls for much more from the companies that host podcasts. Over to you, Apple, iHeart, Spotify, Google and more. We are counting on you.

Hi, I’m Sree Sreenivasan, and I talk about politics, technology and more. Today, I’m going to talk about how some podcasts are killing us and how the big online platforms that make podcasts possible have been exempt from conversations around hate, disinformation, as well as misinformation. 

Social media giants have been in the crosshairs for years — there have been dozens of congressional hearings, countless investigative reports, leaked documents pointing to the ill effects of social media on all aspects of society — and how much the companies all know about it. 

But what about Apple, Spotify, I Heart Radio, and dozens of other podcast distribution platforms?  

Covid19 lies and misinformation, anti-vaxx personalities, and worse are all over the podcast landscapes…and why wouldn’t they be? 

28% of the total U.S. population (about 80 million people) are now considered to be habitual weekly podcast listeners, listening every week, and listenership is up across every demographic. Plus, the barrier to entry is minimal and getting cheaper by the day. 

It shouldn’t be much of a surprise. After all, right-wing media has owned the talk radio airwaves for decades, and podcasts are the natural extension of that. Which brings us to the same debate we keep having about the social media giants — are they just platforms? 

Podcasts seem much much closer to “traditional media” as we think about that phrase and a lot of podcasts would suffer mightily if they were dropped from Apple, iHeart, Spotify, and other platforms.

Like the social media giants, podcasts are online, so the F.C.C. has no authority to regulate much of anything.

In most cases, that’s just fine. In a very few dangerous cases, it isn’t. 

There is still a troubling amount of overt hate online, but there is a sophistication to modern disinformation campaigns that calls for much more from the companies that host podcasts. Over to you, Apple, iHeart, Spotify, Google and more. We are counting on you.


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