Joe Rogan is the most popular podcaster in America.
But well over 260 doctors, nurses, scientists, health professionals, and others have signed an open letter urging Spotify to “implement a misinformation policy” around his show’s promotion of an anti-vaccine rally with discredited scientist Robert Malone in an episode published on December 31st.
Rogan has repeatedly spread misinformation about vaccines and discouraged their use. The December episode drew attention in part because Dr. Malone falsely claimed that millions of people were “hypnotized” to believe specific facts about COVID-19, and that people waiting in line to be tested as the omicron variant has driven record new cases of the virus was an example of “mass formation psychosis,” a non-existent phenomenon.
We are a coalition of scientists, medical professionals, professors, and science communicators spanning a wide range of fields such as microbiology, immunology, epidemiology, and neuroscience and we are calling on Spotify to take action against the mass-misinformation events which continue to occur on its platform. 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.
Following a similar incident in the past, Spotify CEO Daniel Ek refused to take action against Rogan’s podcast. “What I will say is we have 8 million creators, and hundreds of millions of pieces of content,” Ek said. “We have a content policy and we do remove pieces that violate it.”
In previous earnings calls, the company cited Rogan’s podcast as an example of its success in building a revenue stream in podcasts.
Another podcast that spread COVID-19 misinformation, hosted by conspiracy theorist Pete Evans, was removed from Spotify last year.
According to CNN, at the time a Spotify spokesperson said that “Spotify prohibits content on the platform which promotes dangerous false, deceptive, or misleading content about COVID-19 that may cause offline harm and/or pose a direct threat to public health.”
According to Media Matters, a nonprofit that tracks right-wing misinformation, the rally Rogan promoted has sponsors that “include Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s anti-vaccine group Children’s Health Defense and The Unity Project, whose leadership board includes a veritable array of COVID-19 misinformers, including Peter McCullough, Paul Alexander, Tess Lawrie, and Pierre Kory.”
“This is not only a scientific or medical concern,” write the signatories to the letter, “it is a sociological issue of devastating proportions and Spotify is responsible for allowing this activity to thrive on its platform.”