Spotify faces calls for a misinfo policy as an open letter exposes Joe Rogan’s COVID lies

Podcaster Joe Rogan is once again causing problems for the company that pays him $100 million: Spotify.

Last week, 270 doctors, scientists, and professors published an open letter to the audio streaming giant demanding that the company create an official policy around misinformation. The letter, which was first reported by Rolling Stone, focused on Rogan’s popular show, the Joe Rogan Experience, which has been a source of misinformation surrounding COVID-19 throughout the pandemic.

“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,” reads the letter.

“With an estimated 11 million listeners per episode, JRE is the world’s largest podcast and has tremendous influence,” it continues. ” Spotify has a responsibility to mitigate the spread of misinformation on its platform.”

An epidemiologist at University of Illinois Chicago School of Public Health, Katrine Wallace, even went further in her own comments to Rolling Stone, saying she considers Rogan to be “a menace to public health.”

The letter focuses on Rogan’s Dec. 31 episode with Dr. Robert Malone, who claims to be the “inventor” of mRNA vaccine technology. The episode went viral on social media after Dr. Malone claimed “mass formation psychosis,” what he claims means when society goes “barking mad,” was to blame for the response to the pandemic.

Experts have debunked this “mass formation psychosis” claim.

“In episode #1757, Rogan hosted Dr. Robert Malone, who was suspended from Twitter for spreading misinformation about COVID-19,” reads the letter. “Dr. Malone used the JRE platform to further promote numerous baseless claims, including several falsehoods about COVID-19 vaccines and an unfounded theory that societal leaders have “hypnotized” the public. Many of these statements have already been discredited.”

The open letter continues to mention other examples of Rogan’s COVID misinformation. During an April 2021 episode of the podcast, for example, Rogan claimed that young, healthy people shouldn’t prioritize getting the COVID-19 vaccine and called vaccinating children “crazy to me.”

In response to the letter, Rogan’s fans attempted to signal boost their own praise for the podcaster in an attempt to drown out the criticism.

“We would be in very serious trouble right now without Joe Rogan and Spotify’s courage,” read a tweet from podcaster and frequent Joe Rogan Experience guest, Bret Weinstein. “Let’s make #ThanksJoeRogan and #ThankYouSpotify trend. Don’t cut and paste. And consider doing them in separate tweets. Let’s let’em know we appreciate them.”

Spotify has had to deal with controversy thanks to Rogan before. Employees of the company concerned with Rogan’s content have pushed for more editorial control over the podcaster, whose program airs exclusively on Spotify thanks to a $100 million deal. The company has previously removed dozens of episodes of the Joe Rogan Experience from its platform due to content issues.

“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,” Spotify said in a prior comment given to The Verge in April 2021. “When content that violates this standard is identified it is removed from the platform.”

Since the episode went live, Rogan’s interview with Dr. Malone has been removed from YouTube in accordance with the platform’s policies on COVID misinformation. Dr. Malone has also personally been suspended from Twitter due to its own COVID misinformation rules.

The episode, however, remains live on Spotify. The company did not respond to an email from Mashable seeking comment

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