Joe Rogan, the host of the popular podcast “The Joe Rogan Experience,” has come under fire for promoting misinformation related to COVID-19 vaccines, 5G and Wi-Fi technology, and ivermectin. After a recent episode with guest Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., in which these conspiracy theories were discussed, Baylor microbiology professor and public health advocate Peter Hotez, MD Ph.D., tweeted out a Motherboard article about Spotify’s lack of moderation of Rogan’s misinformation. In response, Rogan challenged Hotez to a debate with Kennedy and offered to donate $100,000 to a charity of Hotez’s choosing if he agreed.
Elon Musk joins fray
Elon Musk, the owner of Twitter, joined the Twitter debate, accusing Hotez of “hating charity” by not accepting the debate. After hours of taunting from Musk and Rogan fans, Hotez tweeted that he was “just stalked in front of my home by a couple of antivaxers taunting me to debate RFKJr.” This adds a troubling new dynamic to the story, particularly in light of Spotify’s contortions to allow Rogan’s misinformation to remain on the platform.
A Spotify spokesperson was quoted in the Motherboard article as saying that because Rogan and Kennedy never said COVID vaccines were designed to kill people, the episode wasn’t in violation of the platform’s rules. However, this response has been criticized by many as inadequate. Spotify signed a $100 million deal with Rogan over three years ago and established a new set of misinformation policies after several high-profile stars had their music removed from the platform in protest of Rogan’s vaccine claims, which had previously gone unaddressed by Spotify.
Implications for public health
Conspiracies highlighted on “The Joe Rogan Experience” can go viral as social media spreads the claims. To date, 111 episodes of the podcast have been taken down, according to JREmissing, a site that tracks removed episodes. This raises serious concerns about the impact of misinformation on public health and the responsibility of platforms like Spotify to moderate content that could be harmful to their users.
The controversy surrounding Joe Rogan’s promotion of COVID-19 misinformation on “The Joe Rogan Experience” highlights the importance of responsible content moderation by social media platforms. Spotify’s response has been criticized as inadequate, and the incident has raised serious concerns about the impact of misinformation on public health. The debate between Rogan and Hotez, and the subsequent harassment of Hotez, add a troubling new dynamic to the story. It remains to be seen how Spotify will respond to this controversy and whether they will take more proactive measures to moderate content that could be harmful to their users.