Spotify CEO: Rogan’s comments ‘incredibly hurtful,’ but ‘silencing’ not the answer
Spotify CEO Daniel Ek in a Sunday email to staff said that while racial slurs used by Joe Rogan on previous episodes of his podcast were “incredibly hurtful,” he doesn’t believe censoring Rogan is the solution.
In the memo, obtained by Axios, Ek clarifies that Spotify is not technically the publisher of Rogan’s podcast, though he concedes that the exclusive and lucrative relationship between them “implies otherwise.”
“We should have clear lines around content and take action when they are crossed, but canceling voices is a slippery slope,” Ek wrote. “Looking at the issue more broadly, it’s critical thinking and open debate that powers real and necessary progress.”
Rogan reportedly used the N-word more than 20 times in various podcast episodes over the years, a compilation of which spread on social media. He apologized in an Instagram video on Saturday.
“I know that to most people, there’s no context where a white person is ever allowed to say that, never mind publicly on a podcast, and I agree with that,” he said, adding that he hadn’t “said it in years.”
Rogan and Spotify were already under intense scrutiny, initially due to misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines spouted by some of his guests.
Neil Young and other musicians and podcasters have pulled their works from the platform in protest, demanding that Spotify prevent the publication of falsehoods that could undermine public health.
However, those episodes did not appear to be among the dozens that were removed from Spotify over the weekend.
Ek explained in his email that Rogan personally chose to remove the offending episodes after conversations with 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,” Ek wrote.
He added, “And I want to make one point very clear – I do not believe that silencing Joe is the answer.”
The CEO added that in an effort to elevate a diversity of voices on the platform, the company would invest $100 million for “licensing, development, and marketing of music (artists and songwriters) and audio content from historically marginalized groups.”
“While some might want us to pursue a different path, I believe that more speech on more issues can be highly effective in improving the status quo and enhancing the conversation altogether,” Ek wrote.