Since 2015, Gimlet Media’s Science Vs podcast has published quick episodes about topics like killer asteroids, blue balls, and vaccine research. It prides itself in thorough research (creator and producer Wendy Zuckerman said in an interview with Discover Pods that she “spoke to more than 100 cardiologists” for an episode about alcohol, for example). But as of Monday, the podcast has paused its usual production.
“Throughout the pandemic, Spotify has given Science Vs the resources we needed to produce accurate content about the coronavirus,” wrote Wendy Zukerman and Blythe Terrell, the respective host and editor of the show. “Spotify’s support of Joe Rogan’s podcast has felt like a slap in the face.”
The duo announced that Science Vs will stop publishing its typical material. Instead, it will restrict itself to content “intended to counteract misinformation being spread on Spotify.” In a letter to Spotify CEO Daniel Ek, Zukerman and Terrell said their policy would remain in place until "Spotify implements stronger methods to stop the spread of misinformation on the platform."
Fact check incoming — The letter revealed that a future episode of Science Vs will fact check the claims made in a recent Joe Rogan Experience episode with Dr. Robert Malone, a scientist who worked on early research in mRNA technology, including baseless claims that getting vaccinated puts people who already have had COVID-19 at higher risk.
In 2020, Spotify paid over $100 million to be the exclusive platform of The Joe Rogan Experience, a podcast featuring conversations with guests across a range of ideological extremes — even COVID conspiracy theorists. In contrast, Wendy Zukerman doesn’t support false equivalencies. “If there’s a 95 percent consensus among scientists, you report the consensus,” she said to Slate in 2017.
Spotify doesn’t care much about misinfo — On December 31, 270 scientists penned an open letter demanding Spotify improve its moderation. The letter claims Joe Rogan “has discouraged vaccination in young people and children, incorrectly claimed that mRNA vaccines are ‘gene therapy,’ promoted off-label use of ivermectin to treat COVID-19 (contrary to FDA warnings), and spread a number of unsubstantiated conspiracy theories.”
Over the weekend, Joe Rogan pledged more balance on his show, and Spotify published a blog post saying it would add a content advisory to episodes that discuss COVID-19. But some (including the White House) think Spotify could do more.