Spotify removes 113 Joe Rogan podcast episodes amid racial slur controversy

7 Feb 2022

Image: © monticellllo/Stock.adobe.com

More than 100 episodes of the Joe Rogan Experience have been removed from Spotify, but the platform has not taken down the one that began the recent Covid misinformation controversy.

Spotify is facing another wave of controversy related to Joe Rogan and said it has removed episodes of his podcast from its platform at Rogan’s request.

The removals began after singer-songwriter India Arie shared a compilation video of Rogan using racial slurs on his podcast. Citing the podcaster’s “language around race”, Arie joined several musicians who requested to have their work pulled from Spotify, including Neil Young.

Future Human

Responding to this issue, Spotify CEO Daniel Ek sent a memo to the company’s staff apologising for the impact this situation has had on them. He added that Rogan “chose to remove a number of episodes” from Spotify and has issued an apology with regards to the use of racially insensitive language.

“While I strongly condemn what Joe has said and I agree with his decision to remove past episodes from our platform, I realise some will want more,” Ek said in the memo, which was obtained by Axios.

“And I want to make one point very clear, I do not believe that silencing Joe is the answer. We should have clear lines around content and take action when they are crossed, but cancelling voices is a slippery slope.”

He stated that Spotify is “not the publisher” of the Joe Rogan Experience, which was acquired by the platform in 2020 in a deal worth around $100m and has become one of its most popular podcasts.

Ek added that the company will invest $100m for the licensing, development and marketing of music and audio content from historically marginalised groups.

To date, 113 episodes of Rogan’s podcast have been removed from Spotify, according to website JREmissing.com which tracks missing episodes. However, an interview with Robert Malone that began the recent controversy surrounding Covid misinformation is still on the platform.

Medical misinformation

Last month, more than 270 scientists and medical professionals called on Spotify to crack down on misinformation, claiming that an episode of Rogan’s podcast featuring virologist and immunologist Malone was spreading false information and conspiracy theories around Covid-19 and vaccines.

In an open letter published online, the group called on Spotify to take action against “mass-misinformation events which continue to occur on its platform”.

In recent weeks, Spotify removed Neil Young’s music from its platform at the star’s request, as he protested that vaccine misinformation was being spread on the podcast of Joe Rogan. In a statement, the musician wrote: “They can have Rogan or Young. Not both.”

Since then a number of musicians have followed Young in leaving the platform. Spotify has responded to the controversy with new platform rules and a content advisory to be added to shows discussing Covid-19.

While dealing with the fallout from Rogan’s podcast, Spotify’s stock took a hit last week after it predicted a slowdown in subscriber growth in the first quarter of this year.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic

editorial@siliconrepublic.com