A coalition of 270 doctors, nurses, scientists and science educators is urging Spotify to stop podcast host Joe Rogan from spreading misinformation about COVID and vaccines.
The health care professionals posted an open letter pointing out that Rogan — who hosts “The Joe Rogan Experience” (“JRE”), one of the world’s largest podcasts (some say the largest) on Spotify — has throughout the pandemic “repeatedly spread misleading and false claims on his podcast, provoking distrust in science and medicine,” endangering lives and damaging society.
The letter calls on Spotify to “immediately establish a clear and public policy to moderate misinformation on its platform.”
Rogan “has discouraged vaccination in young people and children, incorrectly claimed that mRNA vaccines are 'gene therapy,' promoted off-label use of ivermectin to treat COVID-19 (contrary to FDA warnings), and spread a number of unsubstantiated conspiracy theories,” the letter points out.
This past October, after Spotify began taking increasing heat for Rogan’s COVID misinformation, Dawn Ostroff, Spotify’s chief content and advertising business officer, vowed that the media company would not allow any inaccurate content on its platform.
“There are definitely, you know, very aggressive moves on our part to invest in not only the R&D side of content moderation but also in our teams for trust and safety,” Ostroff said during a summit hosted by Fortune. “And we continue to invest a significant amount of money there, because it's important for everybody.”
But the open letter to Spotify cites a “JRE” episode aired just two weeks ago, on Dec. 31, as a prime example of dangerous misinformation. The show featured Dr. Robert Malone, who was suspended from Twitter for spreading misinformation about COVID. Malone used Rogan’s platform “to further promote numerous baseless claims, including several falsehoods about COVID-19 vaccines and an unfounded theory that societal leaders have ‘hypnotized’ the public,” the health care professionals wrote.
Malone “is one of two recent ‘JRE’ guests who have compared pandemic policies to the Holocaust,” they added. “These actions are not only objectionable and offensive, but also medically and culturally dangerous.”
According to research by MediaMonitors, the average age of “JRE” listeners is 24, and according to data from Washington State, unvaccinated 12- to-34-year-olds are 12 times more likely to be hospitalized with COVID than those who are fully vaccinated, the letter states.
Malone’s interview “has reached many tens of millions of listeners vulnerable to predatory medical misinformation,” it adds. “Mass-misinformation events of this scale have extraordinarily dangerous ramifications.”
None of which has deterred multiple advertisers from buying exposure on each episode of “JRE.”
The podcast has a devoted audience averaging about 11 million per episode, according to analytics pulled from Spotify and Nielsen. As of 2019, the audio and video podcast — which became exclusively licensed to Spotify as of December 2020 (in a deal reportedly worth at least $100 million) — was claiming it had more than 200 million monthly downloads.
Last month, ad-buyer sources told The Verge that a host-read ad on the podcast “used to cost tens of thousands of dollars” before the show moved to Spotify, but this year, the minimum spend to secure any ads on the podcast is $1 million, at a cost per thousand of upwards of $60.
As of May 2020, the Magellan AI blog, based on having analyzed more than 21,000 shows, reported that most episodes of “JRE” were carrying four pre-roll ads.