Host of one of the most successful podcasters on the internet, Joe Rogan, has been at the center of recent controversy as people are calling for his show The Joe Rogan Experience to be removed from audio giant Spotify’s streaming service for spreading “COVID-19 misinformation.”
Since comedian and UFC announcer Rogan began the JRE podcast in 2009, he has drawn 11 million listeners featuring an array of figures including Elon Musk, Bernie Sanders, and Neil deGrasse Tyson to name a few. A given episode can span hours as he promotes discourse on every topic with entertainers, politicians, scientists, and many more.
Most recently, interviews with virologist Robert Malone who own 9 patents on mRNA technology and cardiologist Peter McCullough who have both spoken on the divisive views regarding the COVID-19 vaccine have caught scrutiny. This isn’t the first time Rogan’s guests have incited a coalition of adversaries to urge for censorship, but when legends such as Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, and Nils Lofgren lead the cause, more are flocking to share their opinion on the notorious host’s impact.
“They can have Rogan, or Young. Not both. I am doing this because Spotify is spreading fake information about vaccines – potentially causing death to those who believe the disinformation being spread by them,” said Neil Young in a letter shared by Rolling Stone. Spotify has since removed Neil Young’s music in compliance with his request.
By whose yardstick are we measuring what qualifies as misinformation? How does the push to silence voices and creator expression relate to the First Amendment? In an environment with many varying stances and data over a short period, it is important to discuss all issues – whether that speech is widely objectionable or not. On the other hand, people believe Rogan is misleading his listeners by having these conversations and feel that because Spotify profits from Rogan’s podcast, that they are responsible for what he is allowed to say.
Former Presidential candidate Marianne Williamson shared on Twitter, “I’m triple vaxxed, but (unless they’re standing for hate or calling for violence) banning someone’s podcast is too much like burning a book to me. Joe Rogan should talk on his podcast about whatever he damn well pleases.” Rogan publicly responds to his critics on Instagram.
“The problem I have with the term misinformation, especially today, is that many of the things we thought of as misinformation just a short while ago are now accepted as fact,” said Rogan in a publicly shared defense and apology. “One year ago, if you said I don’t think cloth masks work, you’d be banned from social media. Now that is openly and repeatedly stated on CNN.”
He clarifies his stance by stating, “I am just a person that sits down and talks to people. I am interested in finding out what the truth is… I am not interested in only talking to people who have one perspective,” citing he has also held prior interviews on the show with COVID-19 vaccine supporters such as President Biden’s COVID-19 Advisory Board member Michael Osterholm and neurosurgeon Sanjay Gupta.
Spotify obtained exclusive rights to The Joe Rogan Podcast in a $100 million deal, so it should come as no surprise that they don’t have plans to remove the content. They are instead coming up with ways to pacify misinformation concerns by implementing advisories to all content that refers to COVID-19, to which the White House has responded with support.
“It is important to me that we don’t take on the position of being content censor while also making sure that there are rules in place and consequences for those who violate them,” says Spotify CEO Daniel Ek. “This advisory will direct listeners to our dedicated COVID-19 Hub, a resource that provides easy access to data-driven facts, up-to-date information as shared by scientists, physicians, academics and public health authorities around the world, as well as links to trusted sources.”
Despite plans for advisories, musicians continue to threaten their removal from Spotify in solidarity with Neil Young, while Dwayne Johnson, Kat Von D, Jewel, Kevin James, and many others show support behind Joe Rogan.