Medical experts demand Spotify stop COVID-19 misinformation, citing Joe Rogan podcast
More than 250 medical professionals have called on streaming media company Spotify to aggressively police COVID-19 misinformation on its platform, via an open letter specifically calling out the podcast of comedian and Austin resident Joe Rogan.
The letter discusses at length a Dec. 31, 2021, episode of "The Joe Rogan Experience" that featured Dr. Robert Malone, a figure known for pushing false anti-vaccine information, according to PolitiFact.
"The episode has been criticized for promoting baseless conspiracy theories and the (podcast) has a concerning history of broadcasting misinformation, particularly regarding the COVID-19 pandemic," the letter reads. The group of doctors claim that Spotify has failed to mitigate other instances of misinformation on its platform.
News of the open letter was first reported Wednesday by Rolling Stone. "The Joe Rogan Experience" is exclusive to Spotify. The episode featuring Malone, which is more than three hours long, is still available to stream as of Wednesday afternoon.
The signers of the letter, who describe themselves as "a coalition of scientists, medical professionals, professors, and science communicators spanning a wide range of fields such as microbiology, immunology, epidemiology, and neuroscience," want Spotify to institute and enforce a misinformation policy for its content.
The letter goes on to list what the medical experts say are additional instances of COVID-19 falsehoods promoted on the podcast. In a statement last year to tech news outlet the Verge, Spotify said that it prohibits and will remove content that promotes false information about the pandemic.
Rogan's Spotify podcast has enormous reach; it is often touted as one of the most popular podcasts in the world, if not the most popular, and is the No. 1 podcast on Spotify's charts.
When Spotify announced its exclusive multimillion deal with Rogan in 2020, the company heavily touted the host's influence. According to Rolling Stone, the podcast reaches an estimated 11 million people per episode.
"Bringing ('The Joe Rogan Experience') to Spotify will mean that the platform’s more than 286 million active users will have access to one of culture’s leading voices," the company said in a May 19, 2020, marketing release.
The American-Statesman has reached out to Spotify for comment.
Rogan has maintained a strong presence in Austin since 2020. In August that year, he posted a photo on Instagram of his studio's construction. In January of 2021, Rogan was spotted hanging out in Austin with Dave Chappelle, Elon Musk and the singer Grimes. Mayor Steve Adler even appeared in a May episode of Rogan's show.
In September, Rogan announced he had contracted COVID-19; he also said he took ivermectin, a medication often used in livestock that some who distrust vaccinations have pushed as a treatment for the virus, despite no scientific evidence that it is effective and FDA warnings about its potential harm. Late last year, Rogan said that he does not intend to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, according to the Hill.
The letter from the medical professionals ends: "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. We, the undersigned doctors, nurses, scientists, and educators thus call on Spotify to immediately establish a clear and public policy to moderate misinformation on its platform."