Joe Rogan, which hosts the most-listened podcast on Spotify, has repeatedly become a public health threat promoting falsehoods about COVID-19 on his show, according to a group of doctors and health professionals.
More than 260 doctors, nurses, scientists, health professionals and academics, in a Jan. 10 open letter to Spotify, called on the streaming audio platform to “implement a misinformation policy,” specifically referring to “The Joe Rogan Experience” and his “concerning history”. from broadcasting misinformation, especially regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.” The letter highlighted Rogan’s December 31 episode in which his guest was the discredited scientist Robert Malone, who was promoting an upcoming anti-vaccine rally.
In the letter (at this link), the health professionals said they are “calling on Spotify to take action against the massive misinformation events that continue to unfold on its platform.”
Spotify has not responded to a request for comment. Rolling Stone reported for the first time to the health professionals’ open letter about Rogan’s spread of misinformation about COVID-19.
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, Joe Rogan has repeatedly spread misleading and false claims on his podcast, fueling distrust in science and medicine,” the letter read. “He has discouraged vaccination in young people and children, falsely claiming mRNA vaccines are ‘gene therapy’, promoted off-label use of ivermectin to treat COVID-19 (as opposed to FDA warnings), and spread some baseless conspiracy theories.”
The letter concludes: “This is not just 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.”
On the December 31 episode of “The Joe Rogan Experience,” Rogan featured Malone, who has been kicked off Twitter for spreading misinformation about COVID-19. “Dr. Malone used the ‘JRE’ platform to further promote numerous baseless claims, including several falsehoods about COVID-19 vaccines and a baseless theory that civic leaders have ‘hypnotized’ the public,” according to the letter from health professionals to Spotify. The group noted that Malone is one of two recent guests on Rogan’s show (along with anti-vaccine supporter Peter McCullough) who have compared pandemic policy to the Holocaust.
Last spring, Rogan’s suggestion that young people should not be vaccinated for COVID-19 sparked critics including dr. Anthony Fauci to dispute him by pointing out that it is important for everyone to get vaccinated to stop the spread of the virus. Rogan then came back and tried to downplay his influence. “I’m not a doctor, I’m a fucking idiot, and I’m a cage-fighting commentator who is a dirty stand-up comedian,” he said on an April 2021 episode of his podcast. “I’m not a respected source of information — not even to me.”
“The Joe Rogan Experience” was the number 1 most listened to podcast on Spotify in 2021, according to the company. Spotify signed a multi-year deal with Rogan in 2020, reportedly worth more than $100 million, for exclusive rights to “The Joe Rogan Experience” to distribute.
“‘JRE’ is the world’s largest podcast and has a huge impact,” the letter said, citing an estimate that the podcast reaches 11 million listeners per episode. “While Spotify has a responsibility to limit the spread of misinformation on its platform, the company does not currently have a misinformation policy.”
Spotify has even said it has a policy banning disinformation about COVID-19, but it doesn’t appear to be consistently enforced.
Last year, Spotify removed another podcast spreading misinformation about COVID-19, hosted by conspiracy theorist Pete Evans. Back then a Spotify representative told CNN that “Spotify prohibits content on the platform that promotes dangerous false, deceptive or misleading content about COVID-19 that could cause offline harm and/or pose a direct threat to public health.”
Spotify CEO Daniel Ek has previously declined to comment specifically on Rogan (although the company has removed some episodes of “The Joe Rogan Experience” featuring far-right dudes). “What I’m saying is we have 8 million creators and hundreds of millions of pieces of content,” Ek told Bloomberg News in April 2021 when asked about misinformation on Rogan’s podcast. “We have a content policy and we remove pieces that violate it.”
Last week, watchdog group Media Matters be aware that the rally being promoted by Rogan — which aims to “end vaccine mandates” — has sponsors who “including Robert F. Kennedy Jr. COVID-19 disinformants, including Peter McCullough, Paul Alexander, Tess Lawrie and Pierre Kory.”