In public, Spotify is staying quiet about an appearance by conspiracy theorist Alex Jones yesterday on its flagship podcast, The Joe Rogan Experience, despite banning Jones' own podcast last year. But in an internal email sent from a top executive, the company is defending the booking.
Horacio Gutierrez, the company’s chief legal officer and head of global affairs, wrote to team managers on Oct. 28 about the episode of Joe Rogan's podcast that featured an interview with Jones and podcast host Tim Dillon.
“If a team member has concerns about any piece of content on our platform, you should encourage them to report it to Trust & Safety because they are the experts on our team charged with reviewing content,” Gutierrez wrote in an email obtained by BuzzFeed News. “However, it’s important that they aren’t simply flagging a piece of content just because of something they’ve read online. It’s all too common that things are taken out of context.”
“We are not going to ban specific individuals from being guests on other people’s shows, as the episode/show complies with our content policies.”
Jones has been a guest on The Joe Rogan Experience before, but this was his first since the host struck a $100 million deal with the music and podcast company.
The email, which did not name Jones directly, also outlined “talking points” that top management should recite if asked about the interview.
“Spotify has always been a place for creative expressions,” the top bullet point said. “It’s important to have diverse voices and points of view on our platform.”
“We are not going to ban specific individuals from being guests on other people’s shows, as the episode/show complies with our content policies,” the talking points said.
“In closing, we appreciate that not all of you will agree with every piece of content on our platform,” Gutierrez wrote. “However, we do expect you to help your teams understand our role as a platform and the care we take in making decisions.”
In August 2018, Spotify was one of four companies that kicked Alex Jones off their platforms, citing policies against hate content.
During his three-hour appearance on Oct. 27, Jones railed against censorship, repeated falsehoods about the Bidens, and denied climate science. Jones also spread conspiracies about the coronavirus pandemic and vaccines, falsely saying a polio vaccine caused many recipients to get sick. Rogan occasionally attempted to challenge Jones, but without much success.
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Since his rise to fame, Jones has spread numerous falsehoods that have led to harassment, including against families whose children died in the Sandy Hook massacre in 2012.
“We all know that you’ve fucked some things up, right? Your biggest fuckup is Sandy Hook,” Rogan said during the episode. “But you’ve gotten so many things right. This is why I keep talking to you about these things, and that’s why I defend you and why I think it’s fucking dangerous to censor you.”
According to the Verge, Joe Rogan boasted 190 million monthly downloads as of 2019. In last year’s announcement of the exclusive licensing deal, Spotify said, “Bringing the JRE to Spotify will mean that the platform’s more than 286 million active users will have access to one of culture’s leading voices.”
Outside of the leaked email, Spotify spokespeople have remained silent in the face of the public outcry about Jones’ appearance.
Spotify has not yet responded to a request for comment.