WASHINGTON (TND) – There is continued backlash against podcaster Joe Rogan for including doctors on his show who have cast doubt on the need for people to get vaccinated against the coronavirus.
Critics have gone so far as asking Spotify, which streams the program, to remove it from the platform.
But there are also mounting free speech concerns about the rush to ban people who present alternate perspectives. In this brewing battle over free speech and misinformation, Rogan is now firing back.
"I’m interested in having interesting conversations with people that have differing opinions," he said in a video on Instagram, responding to artists like Neil Young and Joni Mitchell who pulled their music from Spotify to protest what they call misinformation spread on Rogan’s podcast.
Spotify has now updated its policy and will "add a content advisory to any podcast episode that includes a discussion about COVID-19." It's a move Rogan says he supports, vowing to make changes himself.
"I think if there’s anything that I’ve done that I could do better is have more experts with differing opinions right after I have the controversial ones," Rogan said.
More mainstream guests have also appeared on the podcast, like members of President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 Task Force and CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta.
But Rogan also makes the point that in the midst of an evolving pandemic, what’s considered misinformation one week can be accepted science the next.
One example is the notion those who are vaccinated can both get COVID and infect others, not widely accepted previously but now accepted as scientific fact.
There has also been a greater acceptance in the theory that COVID-19 could have originated in a lab in Wuhan, China, which is now being investigated by those in the highest levels of government.
Still, plenty of people worry the large audience Rogan has can be harmed by some of the information put out by the guests on his show, arguing the basics of how to treat COVID-19 have remained consistent.
"The most important facts, though, I think have not changed and those facts are those get vaccinated if you can because the benefits of vaccination are vast not just for you but for society," said Ethan Porter, Assistant Professor of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University, who also is the cluster lead of the Misinformation/Disinformation Lab at GW's Institute for Data, Democracy and Politics.
However, some free speech advocates say the backlash against Spotify and Rogan – as well as similar calls to combat misinformation such as demanding cable companies drop Fox News or Amazon change its search algorithms – could have a wide reaching negative impact on the country as a whole.
“You can’t have this in a free society; you’ve got to have the ability of people who disagree to be able to argue their positions not to be shut out of the conversation," said Dr. Richard Vatz, a professor of rhetoric and communication at Towson University.