In April 2021, Spotify removed more than 40 episodes of the Joe Rogan Experience from its library, episodes that included controversial guests associated with sexual assualt, conspiracy theories, transphobic sentiments and just plain wildly untrue concepts.
And all that was before Rogan had COVID in September, which he claims he treated with ivermectin, the horse deworming agent right-wing and conservative types believe is a cure-all and will protect them not only from COVID but is a better course of action than getting medically sound vaccines.
Now, nearly 300 doctors and medical professionals are fed up and calling on Spotify to take action to prevent the further spread of misinformation by adopting a policy for removing harmful information posted on its platform.
As first reported Wednesday by Rolling Stone, the medical experts are demanding Spotify take action directly relating to Rogan — recipient of a $100 million deal for exclusive rights to the podcast — and his dangerous guests in an effort to fight misinformation about COVID, among other topics. “With an estimated 11 million listeners per episode, JRE, which is hosted exclusively on Spotify, is the world’s largest podcast and has tremendous influence. Spotify has a responsibility to mitigate the spread of misinformation on its platform, though the company presently has no misinformation policy,” the letter says.
The effort started recently after Rogan featured as a guest known COVID misinformation peddler and virologist Robert Malone, who spoke about “mass formation psychosis” as an explanation for why people are — in his view, wrongly — trusting scientifically validated vaccines, in addition to claiming hospitals are rolling in cash and incentivized to attribute people’s deaths to COVID instead of other causes. Malone’s episode of Rogan’s podcast has been shared more than 25,000 times in addition to going viral, literally, on other social media platforms and being widely embraced by the far right. Malone also claimed that the administration of President Joe Biden is purposely suppressing information about the efficacy of ivermectin against COVID (what is it with these people and a horse medication?!). Malone also has been suspended from Twitter for his bad COVID information and has compared pandemic policies and practices issued by governments and public health leaders as akin to regulations in Germany during the rise of the Nazis before WWII, an illogical comparison often made by people who don’t want to prove they’ve been vaccinated against the virus that has killed more than 5 million people worldwide.
“People who don’t have the scientific or medical background to recognize the things he’s saying are not true and are unable to distinguish fact from fiction are going to believe what (Malone) is saying, and this is the biggest podcast in the world. And that’s terrifying,” Stanford University neurologist Dr. Ben Rein told Rolling Stone.
Rogan also featured as a guest a cardiologist who said COVID-19 vaccines are “experimental” and that the pandemic was intentional.
The doctors are not calling on Spotify to boot Rogan; instead, they want Spotify to adopt a policy against misinformation. This way, Rogan would not be the only target or the only host under scrutiny or held responsible; any podcast or guest peddling in conspiracy theories, hateful language, misinformation or bad practices would be held accountable for their content in a consistent manner.
“Mass-misinformation events of this scale have extraordinarily dangerous ramifications. As scientists, we face backlash and resistance as the public grows to distrust our research and expertise. As educators and science communicators, we are tasked with repairing the public’s damaged understanding of science and medicine,” the letter says. “As physicians, we bear the arduous weight of a pandemic that has stretched our medical systems to their limits and only stands to be exacerbated by the anti-vaccination sentiment woven into this and other episodes of Rogan’s podcast.
“This is not only a scientific or medical concern; it is a sociological issue of devastating proportions and Spotify is responsible for allowing this activity to thrive on its platform.”
In addition to this letter, there’s a petition calling on Spotify to stop allowing the spread of COVID disinformation, signed by more than 24,000 people.