‘Cancelling voices is a slippery slope’: Spotify CEO addresses employees over Joe Rogan controversy

‘I do not believe that silencing Joe is the answer’

Peony Hirwani
Monday 07 February 2022 08:32
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Joe Rogan apologises for using N-word

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Spotify chief executive Daniel Ek has written a note to the company’s employees stating that cancelling Joe Rogan was not “the answer”.

The latest comment by Spotify’s chief comes as the 54-year-old podcaster has been mired in an ongoing controversy over misinformation, including about the Covid pandemic, that has been hosted on his show and that has led to several personalities withdrawing their support to the platform.

Hundreds of scientists, medical professionals and celebrities have demanded that Spotify address Covid misinformation on Rogan’s controversial episodes about vaccines.

Rogan also found himself at the centre of a renewed controversy when singer India Arie shared an edited compilation of him using the N-word several times on his podcast.

Soon after that, Spotify quietly removed more than 110 old podcast episodes following criticism from celebrities.

In a new note to the company’s employees, however, Ek said he did not believe cutting ties with Rogan was the answer.

Joe Rogan is facing severe backlash over his podcast on Spotify

“While I strongly condemn what Joe has said and I agree with his decision to remove past episodes from our platform, I realise some will want more,” Ek said in the note. “And I want to make one point very clear — I do not believe that silencing Joe is the answer.”

“We should have clear lines around content and take action when they are crossed, but cancelling voices is a slippery slope,” he continued. “Looking at the issue more broadly, it’s critical thinking and open debate that powers real and necessary progress.”

Ek’s message came a day after Rogan apologised for using racial slurs on his podcast.

In an Instagram video posted on Saturday (5 February), the podcaster said: “There’s a compilation made of clips, taken out of context, of me of 12 years of conversations on my podcast. It’s all smooshed together and it looks f***ing horrible, even to me.”

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Rogan attempted to explain his reasoning for using the racial slur: “I know for most people there’s no context where a white person is allowed to say that word – and I agree with that now.”

“I haven’t said it for years... I thought as long as it was in context, people would understand what I was doing.”

“I never used it to be racist, because I’m not racist,” he further said. “But whenever you’re in a situation where you have to say ‘I’m not racist’, you’ve f***ed up. And I’ve clearly f***ed up.”

Rogan offered his “sincerest apologies” for the resurfaced videos, captioning the post: “There’s been a lot of s*** from the old episodes of the podcast that I wish I hadn’t said, or had said differently. This is my take on the worst of it.”

Ek, in his letter, also said he would commit $100m to license and develop music and other audio projects from historically marginalised communities, reported the Associated Press.

The amount is the same as the fee Spotify paid to Rogan to licence his podcast on the platform.

In the past weeks, musicians like Neil Young, his band mates David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash of the folk supergroup Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young and Joni Mitchell pulled their songs from Spotify.

They were joined by American writer Roxane Gay and Mary Trump, who pulled their podcasts from the platform.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, who have a deal with the Swedish audio streaming giant that is reportedly worth £18m, also released a statement on Sunday (30 January), in which they said they have spoken to the music platform’s bosses about their concerns regarding Covid “disinformation”.

Rogan had last year interviewed widely discredited doctor Robert Malone, who falsely claimed on his show that Americans were “hypnotised” into wearing masks and getting vaccines.

In the wake of the growing boycott against it, Spotify said it would add Covid content advisory labels.

Rogan had earlier also addressed the controversy in a lengthy video posted to Instagram on Monday (31 January).

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