Spotify CEO hits back at calls to “cancel” Joe Rogan amid JRE racism controversy

Alex Tsiaoussidis
joe-rogan-spotify-ceo-cancel
Spotify: Joe Rogan / Wikimedia Commons

Spotify CEO Daniel Ek sent a letter to employees on February 6 apologizing for Joe Rogan’s “hurtful” comments. However, he refused to “cancel” him, saying it isn’t the answer.

Joe Rogan and his podcast, The Joe Rogan Experience, have been a source of controversy as of late. In January 2022, he was accused of spreading misinformation after having controversial guests on his show.

Then, he came under fire for using racial slurs in past episodes after old footage surfaced. Rogan accepted responsibility for his comments, describing them as “idiotic.” However, he insisted they were taken out of context.

In the midst of the backlash, Spotify quietly removed more than 70 episodes of his podcast, following on from the 40 they removed in April 2021.

Spotify CEO Daniel Ek addressed the issue in a letter to his employees. He condemned Rogan’s comments and revealed the podcast host was the one who decided to remove episodes. However, he also refused to “cancel” him.

Joe-Rogan-
Joe Rogan is known for sharing unfiltered opinions on controversial subjects.

“We’ve had conversations with Joe and his team about some of the content in his show, including his history of using some racially insensitive language,” said Ek. “Following these discussions and his own reflections, he chose to remove a number of episodes from Spotify.

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

Ek admitted the company needs to have “clear lines” around content and “take action” when those lines are crossed. However, he reiterated his desire to not deplatform Rogan, saying: “Canceling voices is a slippery slope.”

The reason is he believes “critical thinking” and “open debate” are what powers “real and necessary progress,” — implying these are positive aspects of the podcast. However, he vowed to promote “more speech on more issues” on the platform, too.

Joe Rogan talking to the mic on JRE podcast
YouTube: JRE Clips
Spotify’s CEO backed Joe Rogan despite recent controversies but vowed to do more.

At the end of the letter, Ek revealed the company will soon invest $100 million to promote “the licensing, development, and marketing of music (artists and songwriters) and audio content from historically marginalized groups.”

He also acknowledged the importance of listening to people inside and outside of Spotify and said the company would ramp up efforts to consult with “outside experts” to help balance creator expression with user safety.

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