Joe Rogan responds to Spotify backlash over COVID misinformation – CNET

Joe Rogan enjoying a cigar while talking about COVID-19 on his podcast

Joe Rogan has been accused of promoting misinformation on his show, The Joe Rogan Experience.

The Joe Rogan Experience

After musician Neil Young removed his solo songs and albums from the streaming service Spotify on Thursday, Joe Rogan responded to criticisms of his podcast, The Joe Rogan Experience, which was called out for spreading COVID misinformation. In the wake of Young removing his music from Spotify, Joni Mitchell also successfully removed her music from the service.

On Sunday, Rogan said he had “no hard feelings towards Neil Young and definitely no hard feelings towards Joni Mitchell.”

In the video, Rogan defended his choice to bring on guests like Robert Malone, an infectious-disease specialist who was banned from Twitter for spreading COVID-19 misinformation. He also stated he was happy for Spotify to add disclaimers to podcasts on what he called “controversial” topics.

Rogan added that if he could do anything differently, it would be to get experts with differing opinions on directly after “controversial ones.”

Rogan has long been criticized for not only amplifying misinformation, but presenting it uncritically on his show.

#DeleteSpotify was trending on social media on Friday, as people said they had canceled their Spotify subscriptions. Some Spotify customers tweeted Thursday they weren’t able to message a live customer service agent when trying to cancel their service after hearing the news of Young’s music being removed. 

A person familiar with the matter said Friday that Spotify’s customer support was working as usual, with live agents available to respond. CNET’s checks on the support page got quick responses to questions about canceling from both its bot and from a human agent. The bot responded immediately, and the wait to chat with a human was less than five minutes.

Young gave the ultimatum about removing his music Spotify in a letter posted on his website Monday. 

“I want you to let Spotify know immediately TODAY that I want all my music off their platform,” Young wrote in the letter to his manager and record label, which was reported by Rolling Stone on Monday. “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.”

The original letter is no longer available on Young’s site.

Spotify confirmed the removal of Young’s music Wednesday in a statement. 

“We regret Neil’s decision to remove his music from Spotify, but hope to welcome him back soon,” the music streaming platform said according to Rolling Stone.  

Young also uploaded a new letter on his site going into more detail about his decision. He says he learned about the COVID misinformation in Rogan’s podcast after hundreds of medical professionals wrote a letter calling out the service

“Spotify has recently become a very damaging force via its public misinformation and lies about COVID,” Young wrote. “Most of the listeners hearing the unfactual, misleading and false COVID information on Spotify are 24 years old, impressionable and easy to swing to the wrong side of the truth. These young people believe Spotify would never present grossly unfactual information. They unfortunately are wrong. I sincerely hope that other artists and record companies will move off the SPOTIFY platform and stop supporting SPOTIFY’s deadly misinformation about COVID.”

Spotify is the exclusive platform for Rogan’s podcast, The Joe Rogan Experience, in a deal worth $100 million. In the past year, Rogan has had multiple people against vaccines and conspiracy theorists on his podcast. These guests pushed unproven treatments such as ivermectin, while also spreading false information about the COVID-19 vaccines. 

COVID-19 vaccines have been proven safe and effective against severe disease, hospitalization and death. But on Dec. 31, Dr. Robert Malone, a vocal opponent of the vaccines, appeared on Rogan’s podcast and compared the state of the pandemic to Nazi Germany and suggested that people taking precautions against COVID-19 were suffering from so-called “mass formation psychosis,” a medical-sounding phrase that’s been discredited by medical experts. In addition to the vaccines, other public health measures like masking and social distancing have helped slow the spread COVID-19. 

Earlier this month, a letter from more than 250 medical professionals, professors and researchers called for Spotify to stop the spread of COVID misinformation on its platform and pointed to the Joe Rogan Experience podcast. Since then, more than a thousand other professionals have signed the letter. “Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Joe Rogan has repeatedly spread misleading and false claims on his podcast, provoking distrust in science and medicine.” Of the Malone episode, they said: “These actions are not only objectionable and offensive, but also medically and culturally dangerous.” 

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