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Science Vs podcast takes on the Joe Rogan Experience and others, vowing to fact-check what Spotify won’t

February 1, 2022, 12:30 PM UTC

Popular award-winning science podcast Science Vs will dedicate its shows to fact-checking Joe Rogan and others on Spotify who, it believes, promote misinformation regarding vaccines, in a swipe at Spotify’s lenient reaction to Rogan’s controversial interview with a vaccine skeptic.

Spotify owns both Science Vs and the Joe Rogan Experience podcasts, and the two creators of Science Vs said that Spotify’s decision to stop short of sanctioning Rogan’s podcast did not go far enough, calling its support of Rogan “a slap in the face.”

“Until Spotify implements stronger methods to stop the spread of misinformation on the platform, we will no longer be making new Science Vs episodes, except those intended to counteract misinformation being spread on Spotify,” podcast host Wendy Zukerman and editor Blythe Terrell wrote in a letter to Spotify chief executive Daniel Ek on Monday.

Science Vs is produced by Gimlet, which Spotify purchased in 2019, while Joe Rogan’s show was acquired directly by Spotify in 2020, in a deal worth more than $100 million. The Joe Rogan Experience is Spotify’s most popular podcast.

In the face of mounting criticism, Spotify unveiled measures to combat misinformation, choosing to publish the company’s content rules and direct listeners to “data-driven facts and up-to-date information” about COVID-19 before the start of content that addresses the pandemic, instead of censoring information.

“We know we have a critical role to play in supporting creator expression while balancing it with the safety of our users,” Ek wrote in an open letter. “In that role, it is important to me that we don’t take on the position of being content censor while also making sure that there are rules in place and consequences for those who violate them.” The former Fear Factor host and stand-up comedian Joe Rogan has more than 11 million daily listeners on his podcast.

The interview

For the uninitiated, the controversy began after one of the earliest pioneers of the mRNA vaccine, the virologist Robert Malone, went on the show on Dec. 30 to tout anti-vaccine sentiment, calling mRNA vaccines ineffective and harmful. By chance, the day before the interview with Joe Rogan, Twitter had permanently suspended Malone, citing “repeated violations of our COVID-19 misinformation policy,” after he made tweets alleging that an unnamed “Israeli scientist,” Pfizer, and the Israeli government were colluding to keep adverse effects from the vaccine from the public. 

After the podcast with Joe Rogan was published, 260 scientists and medical professionals signed an open letter urging Spotify to “immediately establish a clear and public policy to moderate misinformation on its platform,” citing the dangerous ramifications of promoting scientific mistrust and calling for more accountability from Spotify. 

Folk-rockers Neil Young and Joni Mitchell also publicly announced they would be pulling their music from Spotify to protest Rogan’s program—moves that caused Spotify’s share price to dip last week, before reversing its losses on Monday.  

Rogan, who had been silent during the media storm, broke his silence Sunday night, posting a video onto his Instagram defending himself. He argued he hosts health experts from across the medical spectrum, including CNN chief medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta.

Rogan did concede that he could “make sure I’ve researched these topics” more and “maybe try harder to get people with differing opinions” on his show right after speakers with controversial takes.

Spotify did not immediately return Fortune’s request for comment.

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