Joe Rogan hosts Alex Jones on Spotify podcast despite ban


Joe Rogan, Spotify’s biggest podcast star, has left the platform in an awkward position after conducting a lengthy interview with Alex Jones, the conspiracy theorist banned by Swedish streaming company for producing “hate content”.

Rogan, the libertarian host of the long-running and wildly popular Joe Rogan Experience podcast, uploaded a three-hour discussion on Tuesday featuring Jones, the founder of the conspiracy site Infowars.

Jones used his appearance on the Spotify-funded programme, which has millions of loyal listeners, to raise concerns about the safety of vaccines just two years after his own show was banned by the platform after he helped spread conspiracy theories around events such as the 9/11 attacks and Sandy Hook school shooting.

Jones, who has since been banned from all major tech platforms, appeared delighted to be allowed back on a relatively mainstream outlet, telling Rogan: “You got a huge audience, we can really change the world right now.”

Spotify did not return a request for comment on whether it exercises editorial control over Rogan’s podcast or whether it took responsibility for Jones’ comments about vaccines on a show it funded.

Leftwing US media campaign group Sleeping Giants tweeted: “Congrats on paying 100 million dollars for the privilege of platforming a man who terrorized Sandy Hook parents, Spotify … This isn’t edgy. It’s disgusting.”

Until recently Spotify has acted as a largely hands-off platform hosting music and podcasts produced by external record companies and outside broadcasters. But it recently decided to push into creating its own exclusive podcasts as part of a bid to differentiate itself from other streaming services such as Apple Music.

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It has signed a deal with Barack and Michelle Obama to produce material and spent hundreds of millions of dollars buying Gimlet Media, the creator of many popular shows. But earlier this year it went a step further and signed a deal worth a reported $100m (£77m) to sign the long-running Joe Rogan Experience podcast – regularly one of the most listened to shows in the UK and US – under an exclusive deal.

However, Spotify has faced internal complaints from staff about some of the show’s content, according to reporting by Vice.

“In the case of Joe Rogan, a total of 10 meetings have been held with various groups and individuals to hear their respective concerns,” the streaming company’s founder Daniel Ek allegedly told Spotify staff, following complaints about an episode discussing transgender issues. “And some of them want Rogan removed because of things he’s said in the past.”

When Rogan signed the deal with Spotify he made clear he would retain editorial control over his show’s output: “It’s just a licensing deal, so Spotify won’t have any creative control over the show. They want me to just continue doing it the way I’m doing it right now.”

Throughout the interview Rogan attempted to factcheck many of Jones’ claims by searching online for relevant news stories, while urging him to be careful with some of his accusations: “This is why you need someone who’s a factchecker next to you, going ‘slow down’. What you really need on your show is a legit journalist who’s right next to you with a laptop going hold on, slow down. You get so much right but when you get something wrong …”

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But Rogan also made clear his admiration for Jones, saying: “You’ve been correct about a lot of shit.”



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