Spotify’s Joe Rogan Says He Can’t Be Canceled: 5 Reasons Why Online Free Speech Is Not Cancel-Proof

Spotify’s Joe Rogan Says He Can’t Be Canceled: 5 Reasons Why Online Free Speech Is Not Cancel-Proof

Joe Rogan
Spotify’s Joe Rogan, the “king of all podcasting,” says he can’t be canceled. Here are five reasons why online free speech is not cancel-proof. Podcaster and UFC announcer Joe Rogan is seen at the weigh in before a UFC on FOX 5 event in Seattle, Dec. 7, 2012. (AP Photo/Gregory Payan)

When Joe Rogan, aka “the king of all podcasting,” announced on Tuesday that his podcast is moving exclusively to Spotify, shares of the streaming service closed more than 8 percent higher, adding $1.7 billion to its market cap in 23 minutes.

Rogan launched his podcast, “The Joe Rogan Experience,” in 2009, which led him to superstardom and wildest-dream wealth. The Spotify deal is estimated to be $100 million — a number that “feels gross,” he told New York Times opinion writer Bari Weiss.

He’ll be moving on from YouTube, a site that helped earn his podcast almost 10 million subscribers. Rogan is credited with helping create a podcast culture on YouTube, The Verge reported.

An Ultimate Fighting Championship commentator, Rogan is one of the most popular podcasters in the world. The podcast moves to Spotify on Sept. 1 and will be there exclusively by the end of the year, including the video version, Rogan said on YouTube and social media.

“It will remain FREE, and it will be the exact same show. It’s just a licensing deal, so Spotify won’t have any creative control over the show. They want me to just continue doing it the way I’m doing it right now,” he said.

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YouTube has been imposing tighter restrictions and oversight on the content creators on its platform. Rogan expresses himself freely and has more than 1,450 episodes on YouTube. However, he has said that YouTube can take anything off the site because it’s a private company and not legally bound by the First Amendment. That may be one of the reasons other than money that Rogan agreed to the exclusive move to Spotify, Reubyn Coutinho wrote for Essentially Sports.

Clips will still find their way to YouTube, Dani Di Placido wrote for Forbes. “Those viral moments of Elon Musk pretending to inhale a joint, Alex Jones bursting a blood vessel while ranting about interdimensional pedophiles, or Neil Degrasse Tyson pointing out logic gaps in mindless blockbusters, will still be available – but to hear the full interviews, you’re going to need to download Spotify.”

The ability to be free of censorship may be the thing Rogan prizes most, Weiss wrote for the New York Times. “… and he’s very concerned about censorship, especially inside the tech companies that control the most powerful forms of mass communication the world has ever seen.”

“When you have something that can’t get canceled, you can be free,” Rogan told Weiss.

Except that Rogan could be wrong about getting not getting canceled.

If he says something racist or offensive to specific groups, Spotify advertisers could pull advertising or an angry and organized online mob could start encouraging mass cancellation of Spotify subscriptions.

“The friction between free speech and censorship follows Joe Rogan over to Spotify,” said digital media entrepreneur Jamarlin Martin, CEO of The Moguldom Nation. “He just may be in a better censorship position.”

Rogan could be canceled if enough public pressure is put on Spotify to cancel him.

“There are ways creators can be canceled without a way to distribute their free speech,” Martin said.

Here are five reasons why online free speech is not cancel-proof.

1. If users pay for the content directly, Paypal can apply censorship rules

A payment provider can shut down controversial online speech by cutting off their means of financial support. In 2010, online payment processor Paypal cut off services to the whistleblower WikiLeaks. In 2012, Smashwords, a Silicon Valley platform for self-publishing e-books, notified authors, publishers, and literary agents that it no longer accepted certain forms of sexually explicit fiction. This was in response to a push by PayPal to deny service to online merchants selling what it deemed to be obscene written content.

2. If they have a newsletter, Mailchimp can kick them off the platform

In June 2019, Mailchimp, one of the largest email newsletter providers, removed several anti-vaccination activists from its platform and said it would no longer provide services to newsletters that push anti-vaccination content. Mailchimp said in a press release, “Spreading misinformation about the safety and efficacy of vaccines poses a serious threat to public health and causes real-world harm. We cannot allow these individuals and groups to use our Marketing Platform to spread harmful messages and expand their audiences.

“We trust the world’s leading health authorities, like the CDC, WHO, and the AAP, and follow their guidance when assessing this type of misuse of our platform.”

In 2019, Paypal came under fire from religious groups and conservatives after its CEO said that the company works with the Southern Poverty Law Center to help identify accounts to ban from the payment platform.

SPLC lists several conservative Christian organizations as “hate groups” or “extremists” because of their religious views, Fox News reported.

PayPal blocked Infowars host Alex Jones for “hate and discriminatory intolerance.” It also banned social media site Gab after the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre shooter posted anti-Semitic notes on the messaging platform.

PayPal said it banned Gab for “explicitly allowing the perpetuation of hate, violence or discriminatory intolerance.”

3. Website hosts can kick content creators and free speech off the platform

Website-hosting provider GoDaddy banned neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer after receiving calls over its hate-filled stories. The site promoted the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va. Especially at issue was an article mocking Heather Heyer, 32, who was killed in Charlottesville in 2017 by a white nationalist who plowed a car into a crowd of counter-protesters.

4. There could be a blacklist to ban creators considered dangerous

There could be a blacklist passed around from the government or corporations to ban creators who are thought to be dangerous or outside of societal norms. With conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, corporations moved together to cancel him simultaneously.

Some on the right called “collusion” when Facebook, Apple, YouTube, and Spotify kicked out podcasts, pages, and channels belonging to Jones and his Infowars website. It was considered one of the biggest purges ever of popular content by internet giants.

Spotify was criticized for sticking with Jones while others banned him.

In 2019, Apple drew fire from Republicans and Democrats for taking down an app that allowed Hong Kong protesters to track police movement in the city.

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“Apple’s decisions to accommodate the Chinese government by taking down HKmaps is deeply concerning,” lawmakers wrote in a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook. They slammed Apple for “censorship of apps.” Apple said the app violated local laws.

5. Spotify famously removed R Kelly from its playlists

In 2018, Spotify removed R. Kelly and XXXTentacion from its playlists and said it would no longer actively promote the musical artists due to “hate content” or “hateful conduct”. Both had been accused of sexual misconduct.

“We want our editorial decisions – what we choose to program – to reflect our values,” Spotify said. “When an artist or creator does something that is especially harmful or hateful, it may affect the ways we work with or support that artist or creator.”

Spotify defined hate content as “Content that expressly and principally promotes, advocates, or incites hatred or violence against a group or individual based on characteristics, including, race, religion, gender identity, sex, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, veteran status, or disability.”