Spotify CEO apologizes to staff, but won’t back down over Joe Rogan stance

Daniel Ek still believes removing misinformation represents a 'slippery slope.'

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There's another apology emerging from Spotify's Joe Rogan uproar, but it's probably not the one you were looking for. According to Recode's Peter Kafka, Spotify CEO Daniel Ek has apologized to staff for the backlash they've endured over the Rogan issue, noting in company email he was "deeply sorry" for how the situation has affected employees who've felt "drained, frustrated and unheard." Ek stressed that he "strongly condemn[ed]" what Rogan said, and noted the podcast star removed episodes with racist language after talking to Spotify.

Ek didn't budge on the prospect of removing episodes, however. He claimed pulling episodes was a "slippery slope" and maintained that preserving content with misinformation fostered "critical thinking and open debate" necessary for progress. The furor over Rogan initially centered on a December 31st episode where guest Dr. Robert Malone pushed known false claims about COVID-19, including his view that a "psychosis" led people to believe vaccines were effective.

The Spotify chief hinted at further measures beyond content labels and publicly accessible content policies. Ek promised an incremental $100 million investment in music from "historically marginalized groups." He also said Spotify was considering expanding the ranks of independent experts used to balance creators' freedoms with safety. However, he saw disputes like that over Joe Rogan as "inevitable" as Spotify sought to become the world's leading audio platform — don't expect the streaming giant to back down, in other words.

The email likely won't satisfy critics like Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Brené Brown and others who have pulled material from Spotify or otherwise chastised the service. They've argued Spotify is knowingly spreading harmful misinformation, and that a company its size has the responsibility to promote accurate material. It's not a debate if one side is demonstrably wrong, after all. In that light, Ek's message and promises are unlikely to calm what remains a very tense situation.