Nearly 300 doctors, scientists, medical and healthcare professionals have signed an open letter to Spotify asking the audio platform to take action against podcaster Joe Rogan, who they say has a "concerning history" of broadcasting misinformation in regard to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The letter, first reported by Rolling Stone, focuses on a December 2021 episode of The Joe Rogan Experience featuring guest Dr Robert Malone, who was recently banned from Twitter for violating the platform's COVID-19 misinformation policy. During the episode, Malone made reference to a baseless conspiracy theory that people had been "hypnotized" into believing the prevailing scientific views about COVID.
During the two hours and 45 minutes interview, Malone made claims that "there was an intentional, very comprehensive suppression of early treatment in order to promote fear, suffering, isolation, hospitalization, and death." Malone doubled down, adding "[I]t seemed to be completely organized and intentional in order to create acceptance for and then promote mass vaccination," going on to say — baselessly — that it's "pretty clear that this [pandemic] was planned."
The letter says that with Rogan's podcast being the world's largest podcast, Spotify — who signed a reported $100 million exclusivity deal with Rogan in 2020 — has a responsibility to mitigate any misinformation contained within it.
"Mass-misinformation events of this scale have extraordinarily dangerous ramifications," they write. "As scientists, we face backlash and resistance as the public grows to distrust our research and expertise. As educators and science communicators, we are tasked with repairing the public’s damaged understanding of science and medicine. As physicians, we bear the arduous weight of a pandemic that has stretched our medical systems to their limits and only stands to be exacerbated by the anti-vaccination sentiment woven into this and other episodes of Rogan’s podcast."
YouTube has already removed the episode from its platform.
Later in the episode, Malone implied that getting booster doses of the COVID vaccine to combat mutating variants was unusual, something that may come as a surprise to people who have been going to get their flu shot every year since it was first introduced in the 1940s. Other claims labeled misleading by Health Feedback include the incorrect assertion that COVID-19 cannot be spread by people without symptoms.
The letter accuses Rogan of repeatedly spreading false claims on the podcast, including discouraging vaccination in the young and promoting the use of Ivermectin, something the FDA has repeatedly warned against.
"Notably, Dr. Malone is one of two recent JRE guests who has compared pandemic policies to the Holocaust," the open letter also points out. "These actions are not only objectionable and offensive, but also medically and culturally dangerous."
"This is not only a scientific or medical concern; it is a sociological issue of devastating proportions and Spotify is responsible for allowing this activity to thrive on its platform," the letter concludes.
"We, the undersigned doctors, nurses, scientists, and educators thus call on Spotify to immediately establish a clear and public policy to moderate misinformation on its platform."