Words by Melis Trimmer, Staff Writer

In an open letter to Spotify, the world’s largest music streaming service provider, Canadian-American musician, Neil Young, demanded for his music to be removed from the platform. He claims that, “Spotify is spreading life threatening Covid misinformation.” As a survivor of polio, Young’s frustrations are personal. His letter is a reaction to Spotify’s top podcast, The Joe Rogan Experience (JRE), in which Rogan has been known to discuss, often controversially, the Coronavirus vaccination with guests. In his letter, Young clarifies “they [Spotify] can have Rogan or Young. Not both.” The letter was removed shortly after its publication, however Spotify responded by removing Young’s music from the platform, keeping JRE, the podcast that it acquired exclusive streaming rights to in 2020, in a deal reportedly worth more than $100m. 

This recent controversy comes after an episode of JRE in which Rogan hosted Dr. Robert Malone (#1757), an American virologist and immunologist who was suspended from Twitter from spreading misinformation on COVID-19. On the podcast he said that Americans have been “hypnotised” into getting vaccinated, with this information reaching Rogan’s estimated 11 million listeners per podcast and driving a coalition of scientists and researchers to write an open letter to Spotify, urging them to “establish a clear and public policy to moderate misinformation.” Joni Mitchell, a Canadian singer-songwriter, has joined Young’s Spotify boycott, arguing that “Malone’s interview has reached many tens of millions of listeners vulnerable to predatory medical misinformation.” 

This is not the first time that Joe Rogan has been widely criticised for sharing his scepticism in regards to the vaccination as in October 2021. The White House blasted Rogan for his views on the vaccine. Dr. Anthony Fauci, American physician-scientist and immunologist and Chief Medical Advisor to the President, said that “I’m not sure taking scientific and medical advice from Joe Rogan is perhaps the most productive way for people to get their information”. These comments came after an episode of JRE featured Rogan stating (in regards to the COVID-19 vaccination): “If you’re a healthy person and you’re exercising all the time and you’re young and you’re eating well, I don’t think you need to worry about this.” 

While Spotify is being slammed for allowing a podcast which is spreading medical misinformation on its platform, Sunny Hostin, an American lawyer, journalist and television host argues, “I’m not saying that Joe Rogan should be removed from Spotify. He’s got 11 million listeners, he’s got a $100 million contract, as of 2020, but I do think, as the podcast platform, you have to have some sort of guidelines. How about a disclaimer on his podcast, that says “This is misinformation””. Spotify has censored Rogan in the past, removing 42 episodes of JRE in April 2021, for reasons that it has not stated. However, the question remains whether it is the duty, or moral obligation of Spotify to censor conversations when they could have damaging effects for those that are listening, given that they do not follow up with their own research. 

Since the controversy has arisen a number of artists have spoken in support of Young. Along with Joni Mitchell, Nils Lofgren is to remove his music from Spotify. James Blunt has tweeted “If @spotify doesn’t immediately remove @joerogan, I will release new music onto the platform,” joking that a release of new music by him is a negative thing. In response to the controversy his podcast has received, Rogan took to Instagram in a 10 minute video, pledging to “try harder to get people with differing opinions on” the show. 

Editor’s note: information correct at time of writing 30/01/22

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