By Bhargav Acharya and Shivani Tanna
(Reuters) – Spotify Chief Executive Officer Daniel Ek said on Sunday he “strongly” condemns racial slurs and other comments made by popular U.S. podcaster Joe Rogan but will not be removing him from the platform.
Ek’s comments, sent in a letter to staff seen by Reuters, come on the heels of Rogan issuing an apology for the second time in a week, the latest for using racial slurs after a montage video surfaced showing him repeatedly using the N-word.
Ek said it was Rogan’s decision to remove a number of past episodes from “The Joe Rogan Experience” podcast, following discussions with the music streaming platform and his own reflections on some of the content in the show, including the usage of racially insensitive language.
“While I strongly condemn what Joe has said… I want to make one point very clear – I do not believe that silencing Joe is the answer,” Ek said.
Ek reiterated his stand on Spotify’s content moderation policies and said that he believes the company should have clear boundaries around the content being published. The company should take actions when they are crossed, but he cautioned that canceling voices is a slippery slope.
The company will also commit $100 million for the licensing, development, and marketing of music and audio content from historically marginalized groups, in a bid to elevate creators from a diversity of backgrounds, according to the letter, which was confirmed by a Spotify spokesperson.
In his apology, Rogan had said the montage showed him using the epithet in conversations on shows over the last 12 years, and included examples of him discussing its use by Black and white comedians and others.
A mixed martial arts commentator and a prominent vaccine skeptic, Rogan has courted controversy with his views on COVID-19 vaccines, the pandemic and government mandates to control the spread of the virus.
Prominent singer-songwriters including Neil Young and Joni Mitchell said that they were removing their music from Spotify in protest at coronavirus misinformation broadcast on the platform.
The backlash against COVID-19 misinformation on the streaming service wiped more than $2 billion off its market value last week. Spotify has said it would add a “content advisory” to any episode with discussion of COVID-19.
(Reporting by Shivani Tanna and Bhargav Acharya in Bengaluru; Editing by Michael Perry)