Spotify has removed 113 episodes of The Joe Rogan Experience podcast, following controversy around COVID-19 misinformation, and resurfaced clips of the podcaster using the N-word multiple times on his show.
The podcast, which Spotify hosts exclusively following a $100 million deal with Rogan, has recently come under fire from artists including Joni Mitchell and Neil Young, as well as doctors, scientists and healthcare professionals, due to COVID-19 misinformation presented by Rogan and guests during episodes, which get around 11 million listeners each. In response, the music-streaming platform announced it would be publishing its platform rules and creating COVID-19 content advisory warnings for podcasts that discuss the pandemic, which will direct users to a dedicated COVID-19 hub.
“It is important to me that we don’t take on the position of being content censor while also making sure that there are rules in place and consequences for those who violate them,” Spotify CEO Daniel Ek said in a statement.
“Based on the feedback over the last several weeks, it’s become clear to me that we have an obligation to do more to provide balance and access to widely-accepted information from the medical and scientific communities guiding us through this unprecedented time. These issues are incredibly complex. We’ve heard you – especially those from the medical and scientific communities.”
Ek, who did not name Rogan in the statement, went on to say that the streaming giant would test out ways to highlight platform rules to creators, "to raise awareness around what’s acceptable and help creators understand their accountability for the content they post on our platform." It's not clear how this would apply to Rogan, who is paid by the platform itself to create content.
Prior to the announcement, JRE Missing – a site that automatically tracks Joe Rogan Experience episodes that have been deleted from Spotify – found that 113 episodes had been removed without announcement.
The episodes, according to an internal Spotify letter seen by Reuters, were removed at Rogan's own request. The removals likely relate to COVID-19 misinformation, or the host and guests' repeated use of the N-word, after Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter India Arie posted a compilation of Rogan using the word, before requesting that her music be removed from Spotify. In the clips, Rogan also compares a neighborhood with a large Black community to Planet of the Apes.
"I was trying to make the story entertaining," Rogan said in an apology video he posted to Instagram. "I did not, nor did I ever say that Black people are apes, but it sure f***ing sounded like that. It wasn't a racist story, but it sounded terrible."
Rogan added that he hadn't used the N-word in years, and that the clips were out of context, though he went on to say that the word is offensive in or out of context.
“I know that to most people, there is no context where a white person is ever allowed to say that word, never mind publicly on a podcast, and I agree with that now,” Rogan said. “Instead of saying the N-word, I would just say the word. I thought as long as it was in context, people would understand what I was doing.”
'I've said a lot of f***ing stupid s**t, which is OK, but not when you're talking about race."
The CEO of Spotify stood by his decision to continue hosting the Joe Rogan Experience amid the sizeable backlash.
“While I strongly condemn what Joe has said," Ek said in the letter to his employees, "I want to make one point very clear – I do not believe that silencing Joe is the answer."