HuffPo Silences Spotify Whistleblower Blake Morgan

In case you missed it, the Huffington Post deleted a post by my friend Blake Morgan, who is, among other roles, a Huffington Post “contributor”.  What prompted this extreme censorship?  Blake’s post blowing the whistle on a semi-private conversation he had in New York discussing with an undisclosed Spotify employee Spotify’s failures as an artist platform.  The meeting was covered by Billboard at the time; Harley Brown wrote:

You may remember Blake Morgan from his highly-publicized, tense email exchanges with Tim Westergren when Pandora came out in support of (and then abandoned their push for) the Internet Radio Fairness Act, which would have reduced the amount of royalties the online radio streaming service paid to songwriters and rights holders.

It wasn’t all that surprising, then, that he was one of the “two or three very, very vocal people who came with a strong agenda to deliver some messages to Spotify, as opposed to what we hoped would be more of a dialogue,” said the FAC’s Paul Pacifico, who orchestrated the event with Spotify following the success of a similar initiative in the U.K.

Strangely, Blake’s excellent post (which almost immediately after being deleted was picked up by The Trichordist along with Blake’s correspondence with the Huffington Post editors) seems to have been inconsistent with HuffPo’s editorial policies because a HuffPo editor told Blake that “[i]f anyone were to dispute your account of the meeting in question, we wouldn’t be able to verify or stand behind the quotes.”

Aside from the fact that Billboard covered the event and Blake’s concerns at the time, after a moment’s reflection it’s easy to see how this editorial policy not only would be a problem for any whistleblower, but also how it’s just not really consistent with reality.  The way to solve the problem is to ask Blake which Spotify employees were present, or who he had the conversation with, or simply more information about the time and place of the meeting so HuffPo could call Spotify for comment or merely ask them for a comment generally.

Because surely there’s nothing stopping Spotify from commenting, right?

Barring that approach, HuffPo could also have printed a disclaimer saying that the report was not verified with Spotify, which is more like what you might do with any other whistleblower.  After all, Spotify is reported to have filed an indication with the Securities and Exchange Commission that the company intends to sell stock to the public, so it’s more important than ever that potential investors have as much sunlight as possible in order to make that critical decision:  What should I sell to buy Spotify shares?

Wouldn’t the public want to turn to a source like HuffPo to get all points of view about whether Spotify is a good investment?  To hear many voices from a source that has no skin in the game?

That approach clearly would be a problem for whistleblowers–imagine it were said to Edward Snowden–but even if you don’t think Blake is a whistleblower offering information that the investing public couldn’t otherwise obtain, deleting the post still seems like an extreme degree of censorship for someone who is simply telling their story.

But in a time when potentially hundreds of millions of dollars are about to change hands in a Spotify stock offering to the public, don’t you think that the HuffPo and other publications would want to err on the side of openness?

Fortunately, David Lowery and The Trichordist agree with Mr. Justice Brandeis that “[s]unlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.”

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