Joe Rogan records his podcast.

Hundreds of Health Professionals Call on Spotify To Stop Platforming Joe Rogan’s COVID-19 Lies

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Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, Joe Rogan, the host of the most popular podcast in the world, has become the unofficial face of “doing your own research”—which is basically code for rejecting the advice of medical professionals and instead investing in pseudo-science, anti-science, and conspiracy theories, usually under the guise of “just asking questions.”

In 2020, Rogan signed a $100 million deal with Spotify, giving the platform the exclusive streaming rights to The Joe Rogan Experience. Spotify also, notably, does not seem to have a clear policy banning misinformation.

According to Rolling Stone, Spotify has removed episodes of other podcasts that contain misinformation about vaccines. But Rogan has been pushing disinformation about vaccines and other aspects of COVID-19 for months on end, and Spotify doesn’t appear to have removed any of it. Perhaps they’re concerned about meddling with Rogan’s content given the size of his audience, but that seems like the exact reason why it’s so important to keep him from spreading dangerous lies.

In an open letter, 270 medical health professionals have called on Spotify to implement a misinformation policy, pointing to Rogan and specifically a recent podcast episode featuring a virologist named Dr. Robert Malone, as being clear evidence of the need for that policy.

Malone’s episode “is not the only transgression to occur on the Spotify platform, but a relevant example of the platform’s failure to mitigate the damage it is causing,” the letter reads.

Malone’s credentials as a doctor give his arguments an air of authority, creating a “false balance,” as one doctor put it to Rolling Stone. He’s spent recent years pushing highly politicized conspiracies about COVID-19 and its vaccines, including the idea that the government has “hypnotized” the public into trusting the vaccines via “mass formation psychosis,” that hospitals are exaggerating COVID-19 deaths for profit, and he’s compared public health policies during the pandemic to the Holocaust. He’s been banned from Twitter for spreading misinformation about the vaccine.

“The average age of JRE listeners is 24 years old and according to data from Washington State, unvaccinated 12-34 year olds are 12 times more likely to be hospitalized with COVID than those who are fully vaccinated,” the letter reads. “Dr. Malone’s interview has reached many tens of millions of listeners vulnerable to predatory medical misinformation.”

The medical professionals who signed the letter aren’t calling for Rogan’s podcast or even Malone’s episode to be taken down, just for the company to “immediately establish a clear and public policy to moderate misinformation on its platform.”

Of course, if they did that, they would need to remove Malone’s episode, as well as plenty of other episodes of The Joe Rogan Experience, since Rogan has spent pretty much the entire pandemic discouraging people from taking the vaccine, encouraging them to test out dangerous cocktails of other medications, and just been a general force against science and public health during the pandemic.

(via Rolling Stone, image: The Joe Rogan Experience)

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Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.