In March 2020, Apple CEO Tim Cook laid out the steps his company was taking to combat the spread of Covid-19. Apple, Cook proclaimed, wanted to “play a role in helping individuals and communities emerge stronger” from the pandemic.
Fast forward two-plus years, and one of Apple’s key platforms, Apple Podcasts, hosts a staggering volume of misinformation about the coronavirus—all in direct violation of the company’s own content guidelines, according to a new Tech Transparency Project (TTP) investigation.
Across hundreds of Apple podcast episodes, TTP found that listeners can encounter encouragements to ingest bleach as a Covid treatment, conspiracy theories about the dangers of vaccines, and frequent comparisons of medical professionals to Nazis.
Some episodes have also featured threatening language against doctors treating Covid patients, demanding that they be indicted or executed and disseminating their personal details to facilitate harassment by listeners.
On top of that, many of the serial misinformation spreaders on Apple Podcasts are adapting themselves to new monkeypox outbreak, with hosts calling it a plot planned by “globalists” and a tool for governments to oppress people.
Apple Podcasts guidelines prohibit “content that may lead to harmful or dangerous outcomes.” They also bar “defamatory, discriminatory, or mean-spirited content” that is “likely to humiliate, intimidate, harass, or harm individuals.”
Apple’s neglectful approach to its podcast platform shows how the company’s lofty talk about corporate responsibility often fails to translate into concrete actions in how it runs its business. In the case of podcasts, Apple is allowing a huge body of misinformation about the coronavirus to reach its listeners, endangering the public at large.
Unlike rival podcast platform Spotify or Google’s YouTube, Apple has shown no apparent inclination to take down the most egregious content. This leaves Apple Podcasts as one of the few mainstream platforms where extremist Covid conspiracist shows can still be accessed.