Social media platforms have a history of censoring or preventing the spread of misinformation. YouTube tends to demonetize certain videos, and platforms like Instagram and Facebook have a fact-check pop-up that appears on suspicious posts claiming to be true. However, podcasting platforms such as Apple, Spotify, and iHeart Radio lack in censorship. The consequences are starting to creep in, but have not yet fully unfolded.
In the wake of COVID-19, on-air topics of importance have been its spread, its implications, protection, and most importantly, the vaccine. Prominent conservative podcasters have openly criticized the vaccine, spreading fear throughout their audiences. Hosts such as Jimmy De Young Sr. and Marc Bernier have stated that it is a “permanent altering of the immune system” and “not a vaccine”. Both hosts passed away from COVID-related complications a few months following.
Talk show hosts and podcasters with wide ranges of opinions often defend their claims from censorship with the freedom of speech. Granted, everyone is entitled to their own opinion. However, when information has the potential to harm others, critics look to the streaming platforms for action. A possible step that these platforms could take is demonetizing portions of the advertising that the content creators use. Of course, advertisers and the creators have immediately opposed this proposition.
One of the main reasons people listen to podcasts is to feel as though they are having a conversation with someone about something important, informative, or entertaining. Through this listening the audience maintains a dynamic with the podcaster that can potentially develop into a parasocial relationship. The voice of humans has a strong and lasting impact on listeners. If nothing is done to mitigate misinformation spread, then these close relationships can further harm listeners’ already worsening methods of determining truth.