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Spotify doubling down on Joe Rogan decision is worrying

Spotify doubling down on Joe Rogan decision is worrying

Spotify doubling down on Joe Rogan decision is worrying
February 21
14:00 2022

On Jan. 24, singer-songwriter Neil Young gave Spotify an ultimatum through a since-deleted letter on his website: to either remove “The Joe Rogan Experience,” or to remove all of his music from the platform, citing host Joe Rogan’s spread of misinformation around vaccines, as well as his dismissive attitude towards the pandemic. In a move that surprised nobody, Spotify removed the entirety of Young’s catalog two days later. In the weeks that followed, musicians such as Joni Mitchell, Nils Lofgren, India.Arie and members of Young’s own folk supergroup CSNY have elected to remove their music from the platform in protest and solidarity. 

“I am happy and proud to stand in solidarity with the front line health care workers who risk their lives every day to help others,”  wrote Young on his website

At the time of Young’s ultimatum, Spotify did not have a misinformation policy for its platform. Consequently, there weren’t any rules the podcast broke with the baseless or conspiratorial claims Rogan and his guests were making in a show that is viewed by about 11 million people per episode. Case in point: the Dec. 31, 2021 episode featuring Dr. Robert Malone, a vaccine contrarian and promoter of the conspiracy theory that COVID-19 vaccines are used by societal elites to hypnotize and control the masses. 

Dr. Malone, who graduated from Northwestern University with a specialization in immunology in 1991, is banned from Twitter for violating the platform’s guidelines for misinformation. Additionally, Dr. Malone touts himself as the “inventor” of mRNA vaccines, a medical accomplishment built on the work of dozens of scientists over a span of decades. He has become a propaganda figurehead to cloud the conversation surrounding vaccines by pedaling misinformation for personal gain.

By falsely claiming the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were not FDA approved, encouraging ivermectin — an anti-parasite medication — as an effective treatment in mainstream circles and comparing pandemic guidelines to the Holocaust, Dr. Malone has done more harm than good in a medical research field he helped pioneer.

On Jan. 10, an open letter from the global scientific and medical communities was written to Spotify, and published, calling for the platform to implement a misinformation policy.  With the support of over 270 doctors, physicians and scientists. The letter does not call for a removal of the podcast, nor the episode in question, but fact-checks a plentiful list of misinformation on Rogan’s show, calling for Spotify to take responsibility for the podcast they paid more than $100 million for exclusive streaming rights.

On Jan. 30, Spotify released a newsletter, detailing the platform’s approach to rules surrounding COVID-19 discussions and publication of “long-standing platform rules.” It also announced the introduction of content advisory links on any podcast that includes a discussion of COVID-19, similar to what Instagram and Twitter have done to curb the spread of misinformation on. 

It is an effort which is too little, too late.

Today, the podcast’s episode featuring Dr. Malone rightfully appears with a “Learn about COVID-19” banner, directing listeners to Spotify’s COVID-19 guide, featuring reputable podcasts from sources like BBC World Service, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and a link to the CDC Vaccine & Professional Resources. 

The attention brought onto Spotify’s responsibility for The Joe Rogan Experience has rightfully led to the surfacing of Rogan’s use of racial slurs in his podcast, prompting CEO Daniel Ek to apologize to employees but double-down on keeping Rogan as the company’s podcasting cash cow. At the time of publication, Spotify has silently removed 113 episodes of Rogan’s podcast from their platform.

As Spotify continues to cling to the former Fear Factor host, consider switching to Apple Music or TIDAL, two companies that actually support musicians with higher fidelity streaming and greater royalties-per-stream payments than Spotify.

Featured Illustration by J. Robynn Aviles

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Travis Norton

Travis Norton

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