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Brené Brown posted a message on her website Tuesday night, sharing that, despite recent controversies, she remains committed to podcasting on Spotify and amplifying issues and voices that matter.
Brown had, on Feb. 1, shared the decision to pause her podcasts, Unlocking Us and Dare to Lead, to learn about the music giant’s policies in the wake of COVID-19 misinformation. “Unlike some creators, I don’t have the option of pulling my work from the platform,” Brown noted. This was an indirect reference to musicians including Neil Young and Joni Mitchell, who have removed music from Spotify in protest of the streamer distributing Joe Rogan’s controversial podcast.
“I’m always going to stand firmly on the side of free speech, so I had a lot of learning to do,” wrote Brown, who remains under an exclusive contract with the music giant. “As stated in the previous post, I’ve never asked Spotify to deplatform or censor Joe Rogan. I wanted Spotify to have a transparent misinformation policy (made available to the public) that balances addressing the complex misinformation issues we face today while respecting free speech. And to be meaningful, I stated that the policy must be applied across the platform without exception.”
Brown notes that Spotify developed the policy and shared it publicly, and have started to apply it. Spotify’s CEO Daniel Ek shared on Jan. 30 that the platform had updated its user rules and added a content advisory to episodes containing discussions about COVID-19. “There’s still a ton of work here,” wrote Brown, who first shared concerns about Rogan’s content with Spotify in 2020.
Among the controversies, Rogan came under fire for including an interview with Dr. Robert Malone, a known vaccine skeptic who promoted baseless theories, on The Joe Rogan Experience last December.
Brown likened the podcasting world to “a big high school cafeteria” where “people can pretty much say what they want.” Brown, who has an exclusive contract with the platform, went on to call Rogan’s comments about the trans community “dehumanizing,” while saying his take on race is “often degrading.”
She emphasized that “words matter” and that podcasters have a responsibility when it comes to vetting and preparing guests. “It doesn’t appear to me that The Joe Rogan Experience takes any responsibility for the health information that it puts out in the world, and I do believe that leads to people getting sick and even dying,” emphasized Brown. “Given the reach of the JRE, the bar for critical questioning should be high.”
Further into the blog, Brown wrote that she tries to live by Elie Wiesel’s ethic: Never allow anyone to be humiliated in your presence. She shared the opinion that many of Rogan’s comments are “belittling and humiliating,” even if he has the right to make them. “If advertisers and listeners support The Joe Rogan Experience and Spotify needs him as the cornerstone of its podcasting ambitions — that’s OK,” Brown concluded. “But sharing the table with Rogan puts me in a tremendous values conflict with very few options.”
Brown is remaining under her exclusive contract, where she will continue to make podcasts that contain issues that matter. She shared that her upcoming guest will be ACLU attorney Ben Wizner, who will discuss topics including free speech and misinformation.
“I’m proud of the conversations, the voices we’ve amplified, the topics that we’ve addressed, and how seriously we take the responsibility,” she wrote. Brown signed off with: “Stay awkward, brave, and kind.”
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