Hundreds of doctors, scientists demand Spotify stop Joe Rogan spreading COVID-19 misinformation

Almost 300 medical professionals and scientists have demanded Spotify take action against its most popular podcast, The Joe Rogan Experience, which they say repeatedly shares misinformation about COVID-19 and vaccinations. 

In an open letter, 270 doctors, physicians, nurses and science educators noted that Rogan's podcast attracts 11 million listeners per episode and has "tremendous influence", particularly over young people "vulnerable to predatory medical misinformation". 

The letter was drawn up after a December 31 episode of The Joe Rogan Experience (JRE) featuring Dr Robert Malone, a virologist who had been banned from Twitter for promoting COVID-19 misinformation and undermining the efficacy of the vaccine. 

In episode #1757, which quickly went viral, Dr Malone promoted what the coalition of scientists called "numerous baseless claims, including several falsehoods about COVID-19 vaccines and an unfounded theory that societal leaders have 'hypnotised' the public". 

"Many of these statements have already been discredited," the letter continued. 

"Notably, Dr Malone is one of two recent JRE guests who has compared pandemic policies to the Holocaust. These actions are not only objectionable and offensive, but also medically and culturally dangerous." 

The group insisted that Spotifiy had a "responsibility to mitigate the spread of misinformation on its platform", noting the company presently does not have a misinformation policy. 

The letter also took aim at various "misleading and false" claims made by Rogan on other episodes of his podcast, claiming he was "provoking distrust in science and medicine". 

"He has discouraged vaccination in young people and children, incorrectly claimed that mRNA vaccines are 'gene therapy', promoted off-label use of ivermectin to treat COVID-19 (contrary to FDA warnings), and spread a number of unsubstantiated conspiracy theories," the letter read. 

The group noted that "mass-misinformation events of this scale have extraordinarily dangerous rammigcations". It highlighted the "backlash and resistance" that scientists face, the "arduous weight" beared by physicians operating within a medical system "stretched to its limits" and the repair work undertaken by educators to deal with the public's "damaged understanding of science and medicine". 

"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 concluded. 

One of the participating doctors, an epidemiologist called Katrine L Wallace, told Rolling Stone she considers Rogan "a menace to public health". 

"Having things like this on the Joe Rogan podcast gives a platform to these people and makes it a false balance. This is what really bothers me," she said.  

"These are fringe ideas not backed in science, and having it on a huge platform makes it seem there are two sides to this issue. And there are really not. The overwhelming evidence is that the vaccine works, and it is safe." 

According to Rolling Stone, Spotify has previously removed episodes from its platform that it deems to contain vaccine misinformation. The open letter does not ask for Rogan's show to be removed from the platform, nor for the episode featuring Dr Malone to be taken down. 

At the time of writing, Spotify has not responded to the letter.