Spotify is drawing heat for a podcast from Joe Rogan in which the popular host discusses conspiracy theories with right-wing rabble-rouser Alex Jones.
The service declined to remove the episode of “The Joe Rogan Experience” after listeners complained that Jones exaggerated the risks of giving children the polio vaccine and that masks don’t help stop the spread of coronavirus, among other things. Spotify has taken down content from Jones before for violating its policies about “hate content.”
Spotify doesn’t ban specific guests, chief legal officer Horacio Gutierrez said in an email to some Spotify employees. The company also weighs the context of commentary made on Spotify shows, according to a person with knowledge of the communication, who asked not to be identified discussing an internal matter.
“Not all of you will agree with every piece of content on our platform,” Gutierrez wrote. BuzzFeed News first reported on the email.
Even before coming onto Spotify last month, Rogan’s podcast had been controversial. The Jones incident will add to a wider public discussion about how stringently technology companies should the vet the content users put on their platforms. Spotify says on its website it bans material that “promotes, advocates, or incites hatred or violence against a group or individual” based on certain characteristics, but doesn’t say it removes material simply because it’s false.
While Rogan recently signed a deal worth up to $100 million to make his podcast exclusively available on Spotify, the episode can also be found on Google’s YouTube, which also bans hate speech but doesn’t bar individual creators, and on Apple. YouTube and Apple didn’t respond to a requests for comment.
The discussion between Jones and Rogan covered a range topics, including accused sex-trafficker Ghislaine Maxwell, a New York Post story about a laptop allegedly owned by the son of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, and the coronavirus. At some points, Rogan pushed back on Jones’s arguments, such as when he claimed that 100% of children getting one type of polio vaccine are sickened with the disease, and his past pronouncements that the 2012 Sandy Hook school massacre was a hoax.
“I’ve told you before, what you really need on your show is, like, a legit journalist who’s right next to you with a laptop going: ‘Alex, hold on, hold on. Just slow down,’” Rogan said.
Jones said in response: “I’m not trying to make stuff up 99% of the time.”