Over 70 episodes of the Joe Rogan Experience were quietly removed from Spotify Friday, adding yet another development in the ongoing debate over whether the streaming giant is responsible for monitoring misinformation and harmful content posted to its platform.
Among the episodes removed include interviews with Amy Schumer, Marc Maron, Bill Burr, Andy Dick, Tool frontman Maynard J. Keenan and Iliza Shlesinger.
It’s unclear why the episodes in question were pulled, and representatives for Rogan and Spotify did not respond to Rolling Stone‘s requests for comments. However, eagle-eyed fans of the controversial podcast on Reddit observed that many of the deleted episodes contained racial slurs, ableist language and other content that could be deemed insensitive. Users noted episodes featuring Tom Segura and Greg Fitzsimmons were likely removed for usage of the n-word. (The repeated usage of racially charged language on the Joe Rogan Experience led singer-songwriter India Arie to pull her music from Spotify earlier this week.)
Still, Reddit posters said, some of the removed episodes featured guests known for being particularly tame — such as documentarian Louis Theroux and comedian Pete Holmes — or lacked noticeable offensive content.
A handful of Rogan’s more controversial episodes — like those featuring conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and neo-fascist men’s rights activist Gavin McInnes — were excluded from Spotify shortly after the podcaster launched his partnership with the company in Sept. 2020. According to the website JRE Missing, a total of 113 of the podcast’s 1,770 episodes are now absent from the platform.
The episodes’ removal comes on the heels of a weeks-long public dispute over the presence of misleading information on Spotify, with Rogan and his podcast squarely at the center of the controversy.
First to bring attention to the issue were a group of medical professionals and scientists, who signed an open letter calling on Spotify to take action against misinformation on the platform after Rogan interviewed Dr. Robert Malone, a virologist and Covid-19 skeptic popular with the anti-vaxx set. Not long after, Neil Young made several public declarations against the streaming platform’s inaction — including the now-infamous “They can have [Joe] Rogan or Young. Not both.” — before pulling his music from Spotify entirely. Joni Mitchell, Nils Lofgren, David Crosby, Graham Nash, and Stephen Stills and Roxane Gay soon followed suit.
On Jan. 30, Spotify announced the company would begin adding a “content advisory” warning to any podcasts that discuss Covid-19, and that it would prohibit its contributors from “content that promotes dangerous false or dangerous deceptive medical information that may cause offline harm or poses a direct threat to public health.” Yet, the company denied the new measures were prompted by public backlash to Rogan’s podcast.
“I think the important part here is that we don’t change our policies based on one creator nor do we change it based on any media cycle, or calls from anyone else,” Spotify CEO Daniel Ek said during a company earnings call Wednesday. “Our policies have been carefully written with the input from numbers of internal and external experts in this space. And I do believe they’re right for our platform. And while Joe has a massive audience — he is actually the number one podcast in more than 90 markets — he also has to abide by those policies.”