A total of 270 US doctors, scientists, healthcare professionals and professors have written an open letter to streaming company Spotify, expressing concern about medical misinformation on The Joe Rogan Experience podcast, listed as the platform’s most popular program.
The letter also asks the platform to “establish a clear and public policy to moderate misinformation on its platform”.
It accuses controversial host Joe Rogan’s show of having a “concerning history of broadcasting misinformation, particularly regarding the Covid-19 pandemic”.
The letter was first reported by Rolling Stone, which quoted Katrine Wallace, an epidemiologist at University of Illinois Chicago school of public health, calling Rogan “a menace to public health” for airing anti-vaccine ideology.
And, specifically, the letter calls out a highly controversial episode of the podcast from last December that features Robert Malone, a virologist who was involved in the mRNA vaccine technology that led to some of the leading Covid-19 vaccines but has since been criticized for spreading vaccine misinformation.
The episode has been widely criticized for promoting baseless conspiracy theories.
“Dr Malone used the JRE platform to promote numerous baseless claims, including several falsehoods about Covid-19 vaccines and an unfounded theory that societal leaders have ‘hypnotized’ the public. Many of these statements have already been discredited,” the letter said.
In the episode, Malone espoused multiple baseless beliefs, including “mass formation psychosis” being responsible for people’s belief in vaccine efficacy, as well as the false claim that hospitals are financially incentivized to falsely diagnose deaths as having been caused by Covid-19.
Rogan said on air: “There’s all these rumors that you would hear about what a hospital gets paid per Covid death and that the government gives them money and that they’re incentivized”, to which Malone replied: “It’s not rumors” and continued with further misinformation on the topic.
The experts’ letter countered that: “Mass-misinformation events of this scale have extraordinarily dangerous ramifications.”
It continued: “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.”
The letter further asserts that 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.”
Rogan, who has been described by the New York Times as “one of the most consumed media products on the planet”, has legions of devoted followers but throughout the pandemic has repeatedly spread misleading and false claims.
The letter concluded: “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.”