On January 30, after facing widespread backlash for profiting off Joe Rogan’s dangerous misinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic, Spotify finally published content rules on its website, which it claims have been in place for years, to “ensure that everyone has a safe and enjoyable experience.” In an accompanying blog post, Spotify CEO Daniel Ek said that the platform will “add a content advisory to any podcast episode that includes a discussion about COVID-19” and noted that “we don’t take on the position of being content censor.”
Under its newly published content rules, Spotify claims to prohibit “content that promotes dangerous false or dangerous deceptive medical information that may cause offline harm or poses a direct threat to public health,” including content that asserts COVID-19 is a hoax or encourages people to intentionally get infected with the virus.
However, the new content rules do not mention masks, even though misinformation about face coverings was included in the company's leaked internal “healthcare guidelines” for content. As The Verge’s Ashley Carman reported on January 28, Spotify’s internal guidelines explicitly prohibited content “suggesting that wearing a mask will cause the wearer imminent, life-threatening physical harm.” Notably, on the January 20 edition of The Joe Rogan Experience, author James Lindsay questioned whether wearing masks is worth “the side effects,” including “breathing back in your gross mouth stuff and getting pneumonia if you’re, say, 6 years old.”
Carman also reported that Dustee Jenkins, Spotify’s head of global communications and public relations, says the platform "has reviewed multiple controversial Joe Rogan Experience episodes and determined they 'didn’t meet the threshold for removal.'”
Though Spotify’s enforcement of its now-public rules remains to be seen, it is immediately clear that Spotify’s “new effort to combat misinformation” is a pitifully insufficient response to Rogan’s dangerous rhetoric.
Rogan has frequently used his platform to espouse COVID-19 misinformation, promote smears against trans people, and spread conspiracy theories. His show is streamed exclusively on Spotify and was the most popular podcast on the platform in 2021 and 2020. As The Washington Post has noted, “With an estimated 11 million listeners per episode, Rogan reaches nearly four times as many people as prime-time cable hosts such as Sean Hannity of Fox News Channel and Rachel Maddow of MSNBC.”
What’s more, Rogan has repeatedly bragged that Spotify has not taken any action against his podcast, including bragging that “Spotify has never said a goddamn thing to me. They're amazing.” Here are examples of Rogan bragging about having impunity at Spotify:
- During the October 6, 2021, edition of his show, Rogan called people who had criticized his guest on TikTok “retarded.” After his guest replied “you can’t say that,” Rogan said, “But I’m on Spotify. You can get away with it.”
- On September 23, 2021, Rogan said, “Spotify has asked me to change nothing. … Spotify has given me no pushback whatsoever. It’s been amazing.”
- On September 9, 2021, Rogan noted that he chose to take his podcast to Spotify in part because “they didn’t seem like they were going to censor me in any way.”
- On August 20, 2021, after his guest went on an anti-trans attack, Rogan said, “You can say whatever you want. We’re on Spotify.”
- On August 12, 2021, Rogan said, “Let me tell you something about Spotify — they never fuck with me once. … You know why? Cause it’s the number 1 podcast on Earth.”
- On May 14, 2021, he bragged that “Spotify has never said a goddamn thing to me. They're amazing. … They don’t say shit. And I tested it too, like when I brought Alex Jones on.”
- On October 28, 2020, Rogan said Spotify never said anything to him after he spread the baseless conspiracy theory that “left-wing people” are “lighting forest fires” on the West Coast, saying, “A lot of people think Spotify told me to do it. They didn't even know about it.”
- On October 1, 2020, Rogan said Spotify never said anything to him about anti trans rhetoric he pushed with Abigail Shrier, saying, “They have literally said nothing to me about it. Zero. It's never come up.”