Shock jock Joe Rogan is hitting all the wrong notes on Spotify.
A group of 270 experts have penned an open letter addressed to the Swedish audio streaming service condemning the top-rated show, “The Joe Rogan Experience.”
The doctors, researchers and health-care professionals who co-signed the statement have expressed concern that the show’s outspoken 54-year-old host is making millions on the dissemination of bogus medical advice — to the health detriment of his listeners.
The letter also asked the streaming music service to “establish a clear and public policy to moderate misinformation on its platform.”
“Spotify has a responsibility to mitigate the spread of misinformation on its platform, though the company presently has no misinformation policy,” they wrote.
The experts wrote that Rogan has a “concerning history of broadcasting misinformation, particularly regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The campaign was launched in part by infectious disease epidemiologist and research fellow at Boston Children’s Hospital Jessica Malaty Rivera, according to Rolling Stone. She has more than 38,000 followers on Instagram, where concerned fans have asked for her help debunking some of Rogan’s claims.
“The Joe Rogan Experience” is one of the top-rated podcasts globally, especially since joining up with Spotify in 2020 in an estimated $100 million deal. The show draws an about 11 million listeners per episode.
“Mass-misinformation events of this scale have extraordinarily dangerous ramifications,” they wrote in their letter.
Rivera was prompted to act after tuning-in to an episode featuring virologist Dr. Robert Malone, who was recently banned from Twitter for promoting vaccine misinformation. She found that even colleagues and friends she considered “quite wise and discerning” had fallen prey to the quack doctor. “When I saw they were falling victim to this, I spoke to some colleagues and we said something has to be done at this point,” Rivera said.
Fellow signee Katrine Wallace, epidemiologist at University of Illinois Chicago School of Public Health, told Rolling Stone that Rogan was “a menace to public health,” particularly for espousing anti-vaccine rhetoric.
“Having things like this on the Joe Rogan podcast gives a platform to these people and makes it a false balance. This is what really bothers me,” she said. “These are fringe ideas not backed in science, and having it on a huge platform makes it seem there are two sides to this issue. And there are really not. The overwhelming evidence is the vaccine works, and it is safe.”
Their letter included a fact-check record of all the dubious claims made during Rogan and Malone’s recent interview, such as the doctor’s claim that President Biden is suppressing research on ivermectin, which has not been recommended by the Food and Drug Administration as a treatment for COVID-19.
Letter co-author Ben Rein, a neuroscientist at Stanford University, told Rolling Stone, “People who don’t have the scientific or medical background to recognize the things he’s saying are not true and are unable to distinguish fact from fiction are going to believe what [Malone is] saying, and this is the biggest podcast in the world. And that’s terrifying.”
Rogan’s big move to Spotify was met with considerable backlash, even by staff at the digital music company who wished not to be associated with the controversial podcaster over similar concerns as those expressed in the recent open letter.
“In the case of Joe Rogan, a total of 10 meetings have been held with various groups and individuals to hear their respective concerns,” Spotify CEO Daniel Ek said in a September meeting, Vice reported at the time. “And some of them want Rogan removed because of things he’s said in the past.”
The outcry became so loud that Spotify would quietly un-publish several highly contentious episodes of “The Joe Rogan Experience” from their platform, such as those featuring interviews with former Breitbart news editor Milo Yiannopoulos, Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes, conspiracy theorist and Sandy Hook shooting denier Alex Jones and comedian Chris D’Elia, who was accused of “grooming” underage girls and soliciting pornographic images.
They also took aim at scientifically tenuous content, including Rogan’s talks with Bulletproof Coffee founder Dave Asprey, the self-proclaimed “father of biohacking,” who touts pseudo-science in the pursuit of life longevity, such as penile “zapping” to treat erectile dysfunction or the bizarre trend of “butthole sunning.”