Doctors, healthcare workers, and scientists from around the world warned streaming company Spotify that its most listened-to podcast, “The Joe Rogan Experience,” is endangering millions of people by giving a platform to guests who spread misinformation about Covid-19—without the company making an effort to correct false statements.
“Though Spotify has a responsibility to mitigate the spread of misinformation on its platform, the company presently has no misinformation policy.”
In a letter with 270 signatories, the health experts particularly took issue with an episode Spotify released on December 31 which featured an interview with Dr. Robert Malone, who was recently suspended from Twitter for propagating baseless claims about the pandemic, vaccines, and Covid-19 treatments and who has ties to anti-vaccine group Children’s Health Defense.
Considering Rogan’s audience of 11 million listeners per episode, Malone’s interview could be “medically and culturally dangerous,” the letter stated.
“By allowing the propagation of false and societally harmful assertions, Spotify is enabling its hosted media to damage public trust in scientific research and sow doubt in the credibility of data-driven guidance offered by medical professionals,” said the experts.
“Though Spotify has a responsibility to mitigate the spread of misinformation on its platform, the company presently has no misinformation policy,” they added.
According to the Associated Press, after Malone’s appearance on “The Joe Rogan Experience,” (“JRE”) social media posts regarding the doctor’s theory of so-called “mass formation psychosis” were widely shared, with the idea appearing to take root online.
Malone told Rogan and his millions of listeners that a third of the U.S. population is “basically being hypnotized” by leaders into believing what top public health experts say about the coronavirus pandemic and mitigation measures.
He added that “mass formation psychosis” was also used to control the masses in Nazi Germany, a comparison which the medical and science experts called “objectionable and offensive” as well as potentially dangerous to public health.
Malone also repeated a discredited claim about Covid-19 vaccines altering people’s menstrual cycles, while Rogan told the doctor that if a 21-year-old asked him whether they should get vaccinated, “I’ll go, ‘No.'”
“The average age of ‘JRE’ listeners is 24 years old and according to data from Washington State, unvaccinated 12-34 year olds are 12 times more likely to be hospitalized with Covid than those who are fully vaccinated,” wrote the experts. “Dr. Malone’s interview has reached many tens of millions of listeners vulnerable to predatory medical misinformation. Mass-misinformation events of this scale have extraordinarily dangerous ramifications.”
Aside from Malone’s interview, Rogan has used his platform to spread other misinformation about the pandemic. When he was diagnosed with Covid-19 in 2021, he talked on the podcast about taking ivermectin, a veterinary anti-parasite drug which “has not been shown to be safe or effective” for Covid-19, according to the Food and Drug Administration.
Rogan has also incorrectly called the mRNA vaccines for Covid-19 “gene therapy.”
Dr. Katrine Wallace, an epidemiologist at the University of Illinois at Chicago who signed the letter, told Rolling Stone on Thursday that Rogan is “a menace to public health.”
Rogan’s repeated comments suggesting the vaccines shouldn’t be given to young people, particularly without an official statement on misinformation from Spotify, “makes it seem there are two sides to the issue and there are really not,” Wallace told the magazine.
“The overwhelming evidence is, the vaccine works and it is safe,” she added.
To help listeners identify false claims on Rogan’s podcast and other shows, the experts said, Spotify must “immediately establish a clear and public policy to moderate misinformation on its platform.”
Rogan’s interview with Malone “is not the only transgression to occur on the Spotify platform, but a relevant example of the platform’s failure to mitigate the damage it is causing,” they added.