“There are no words I can say to adequately convey how deeply sorry I am for the way The Joe Rogan Experience controversy continues to impact each of you. Not only are some of Joe Rogan’s comments incredibly hurtful – I want to make clear that they do not represent the values of this company,” Ek wrote in a memo sent to staff that was obtained by Axios.
Over the weekend, more than 70 episodes of “The Joe Rogan Experience” disappeared from the streaming service. It followed an apology from Rogan after a video compilation was circulated showing him using the N-word a disturbing number of times over the years.
Ek said Rogan chose to remove a number of episodes after Spotify had conversations with him and his team about “some of the content in his show, including his history of using some racially insensitive language.”
“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,” the memo said. “We should have clear lines around content and take action when they are crossed, but canceling voices is a slippery slope.
“Looking at the issue more broadly, it’s critical thinking and open debate that powers real and necessary progress.”
Ek said “these kinds of disputes will be inevitable” as the company pursues its goal of becoming “the global audio platform.”
In response to the situation, he said the platform would be committing $100 million towards the licensing, development and marketing of music and audio content from historically marginalized groups.
Spotify did not immediately return a request for comment.
Rogan has been under fire for using his massive platform, which reaches tens of millions of listeners, to broadcast misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines and cures, as well as to elevate the racist and sexist views of some of his guests.
He signed a $100 million deal with Spotify in 2020 to move all of his episodes to its service.
In recent weeks, musicians including Neil Young and Joni Mitchell have pulled their music from Spotify in protest. A group of 270 doctors and scientists also sent an open letter to the company panning Rogan and the platform for broadcasting misinformation about the pandemic.
In just one example, Rogan falsely suggested last year that young, healthy people didn’t need to be vaccinated against COVID-19, then later walked his comments back and admitted he was “not a respected source of information.”
Following backlash, Spotify announced late last month that it would add a content warning to any podcast episode dealing with COVID-19.