Joe Rogan 2020 220

Joe Rogan has made headlines and stirred controversy over his statements about COVID and vaccines on his top-rated The Joe Rogan Experience podcast. Now a group of 270 doctors, nurses, and scientists is pushing Spotify to draft a clear policy arguing the streamer has a duty to stop the spread of misinformation.”

“With an estimated 11 million listeners per episode, JRE is the world’s largest podcast and has tremendous influence. Though Spotify has a responsibility to mitigate the spread of misinformation on its platform, the company presently has no misinformation policy,” the letter says. It also points to Media Monitors data showing the average Rogan listen is 24-years old, with young people the most likely to be hospitalized with COVID than those who are fully vaccinated.

What sparked the letter was the Dec. 31 episode (No. 1757) of Rogan’s show that included an interview with Dr. Robert Malone, which the doctors say promoted “baseless conspiracy theories” about vaccines. They say while it is not the “only transgression to occur” on the Spotify platform, but Rogan’s show serves as a “relevant example” of the platform’s failure to mitigate the damage it is causing.

Controversy over the episode led YouTube to take down a video of the interview. Twitter has also subsequently banned Malone from its platform for violating its COVID-19 misinformation policy.

“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,” the letter says. Rolling Stone first reported on the letter. “Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Joe Rogan has repeatedly spread misleading and false claims on his podcast, provoking distrust in science and medicine,” it continued. 

Rogan set off a firestorm last April when during a segment on his podcast, he made comments perceived as encouraging young people not to get a coronavirus vaccine. He later backpedaled. “I’m not an anti-vax person,” said Rogan a week later on his show. "In fact, I said I believe they are safe, and I encourage many people to take them. I just said if you're a young healthy person, you don't need it.”

Spotify has given plenty of leeway to Rogan despite his controversies after it made Rogan podcasting’s top-paid talent with a reported $100 million distribution deal that gave the streamer exclusive rights to his show. When a Bloomberg reporter put the question to CEO Daniel Ek last year, he spoke in general terms. 

“What I will say is we have eight million creators, and hundreds of millions of pieces of content. We have a content policy and we do remove pieces that violate it,” said Ek.