The episodes — the latest development in a long history of Rogan and his podcast promoting misinformation about COVID — have prompted widespread criticism. In the past week, musicians Neil Young and Joni Mitchell both publicly asked Spotify to either remove the show or pull their music catalogs. Shortly after, popular podcaster Brené Brown announced that she wouldn’t be releasing new episodes of her Spotify-exclusive podcasts "until further notice," though she didn't specify a reason.
In the episodes in question, physicians Peter McCullough, MD and Robert Malone, MD both made unsubstantiated claims related to COVID, questioning the efficacy and potential danger of vaccines. Malone, who has been banned from Twitter, called the vaccine “experimental,” and McCullough said that the pandemic was planned.
It’s become clear to me that we have an obligation to do more to provide balance and access to widely-accepted information from the medical and scientific communities guiding us through this unprecedented time.
Spotify CEO Daniel Ek said in a statement that the company is planning to add a content advisory to podcast episodes that include discussion about COVID. The company also publicized its official content policy, including removing any content that claims “AIDS, COVID-19, cancer or other serious life-threatening diseases are a hoax or not real.”
An internal memo obtained by The Verge reveals that Spotify had reviewed controversial episodes of The Joe Rogan Experience and determined that none met “the threshold for removal.”
The bar for removal would likely be remarkably high for Rogan, easily Spotify’s top podcaster. The streamer paid over $100 million for the show’s exclusive rights in a 2020 deal.
In his own video response to the controversy, Rogan agreed with Spotify’s statement about content advisories and promised to try to “balance out the controversial guests.” However, he took issue with accusations that his podcast has been promoting “misinformation.” Rather, he claimed, he was simply trying to make a show with “interesting conversations.”
The number of "scientists, medical professionals, professors, and science communicators" who signed an open letter on Dec. 31, 2021, asking Spotify to take action against COVID-19 misinformation, specifically on 'The Joe Rogan Experience.'
By allowing the propagation of false and societally harmful assertions, Spotify is enabling its hosted media to damage public trust in scientific research and sow doubt in the credibility of data-driven guidance offered by medical professionals.
This controversy speaks to the widespread divisiveness over Rogan and his platform. While the podcaster claims that the appeal of his show is one of unstructured, freewheeling conversation, the conceit has become a license to publicize irresponsibly inane notions and feature guests like conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.
More recently, Rogan hosted highly controversial professor Jordan Peterson on the podcast. During the four-hour episode, the pair offered up troves of complete nonsense, including questioning climate change and musing about who is allowed to call themselves “Black.”
In his recent response, Rogan pledged to be more careful in researching guests with controversial opinions.
But if Rogan’s recent tenure with Spotify and the tone of his overall rise over the last few years have indicated anything, it’s that he (and Spotify) will continue to maintain a mindless — and at times sketchy — platform.
As Rogan said himself last year after taking heat over his vaccine takes,
In case you’d like a fuller picture of Rogan’s dubious history with his podcast, check out some of these stories: