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New platform rules don’t apply to hate & misinfo on Rogan’s podcast

Spotify has apparently determined that the following hateful and bigoted comments made on Rogan’s podcast do not violate its rules

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Graphic by Andrea Austria for Media Matters

By Alex Paterson | WASHINGTON – Spotify has determined that its newly published platform rules, which it says have been internally in place “for years,” do not prohibit numerous dangerous and unfounded claims spread on The Joe Rogan Experience. Spotify publicly disclosed these rules on January 30 following widespread backlash at the platform for profiting off of Joe Rogan’s misinformation about the pandemic.

Over the weekend, Rogan issued an apology in response to widely circulated videos in which he made racist comments and repeatedly used a racial slur during his podcast. Rogan also instructed Spotify to take down over 100 of his past podcast episodes from Spotify. 

Rogan’s Spotify podcast is rife with COVID 19 misinformationhateful smears against trans people, and dangerous conspiracy theories. Yet the platform has fallen woefully short in its efforts  to moderate Rogan’s harmful rhetoric.

Spotify CEO Daniel Ek has repeatedly defended Spotify’s failure to moderate Rogan’s harmful rhetoric. During a February 2 earnings call, Ek  defended his decision to stand by Rogan, saying, “I think the important part here is that we don’t change our policies based on one creator nor do we change it based on any media cycle, or calls from anyone else.” And in a note to staff, Ek responded to Rogan’s racist language but noted, “I do not believe that silencing Joe is the answer.”

What’s more, Rogan has in the past repeatedly bragged that Spotify has not taken any action against his podcast, including asserting that “Spotify has never said a goddamn thing to me” and telling anti-trans advocate Meghan Murphy, “You can say whatever you want. We’re on Spotify.” It appears that this trend changed given recent controversy over racism and misinformation.

It is apparent that Spotify’s extremely narrow, apparently “long-standing” platform rules have done little to stem the flood of dangerous rhetoric that is spread across the platform. For example, the platform claims to prohibit “dehumanizing statements” about protected groups but hosts podcasts episodes in which Rogan says an anti-trans slur.

To illustrate this point, Media Matters has compiled a list of some of Rogan’s most bigoted and dangerous rhetoric since July 2020, which we present here alongside Spotify’s newly released policies. 

Rogan has repeatedly spread bigoted rhetoric despite Spotify’s policy prohibiting content that incites violence or hatred toward marginalized communities 

Spotify’s platform rules explicitly prohibit “dehumanizing statements” about protected groups, and the platform recently took action against episodes featuring racist slurs. Yet episodes remain on the platform in which Rogan has repeatedly used an anti-trans slur and suggested that accepting trans people is a sign of “civilizations collapsing.” The platform rules also prohibit “praising, supporting, or calling for violence against a person or group of people” while an episode remains in which Rogan has joked about killing homeless people. 

Spotify has apparently determined that the following hateful and bigoted comments made on Rogan’s podcast do not violate its rules:

  • On January 25, Rogan suggested that social acceptance of trans people is a sign of “civilizations collapsing,” while his guest, right-wing provocateur Jordan Peterson, equated being trans to having a “psychological contagion” comparable to “satanic ritual abuse.” 
  • On January 14, Rogan and his guests mocked Jewish people, asserting that they are “scheming” and “plotting the next big win.”
  • On November 3, Rogan used an anti-trans slur, lamenting that “you can’t say t—-y,” before his guest repeatedly used the slur. He also mocked the idea of a comedian using they/them pronouns, saying, “Imagine if there is a comic who gave into that.”
  • On October 20, 2020, Rogan and his guest said an anti-trans slur then lamented that they can’t say it anymore.
  • On October 6, Rogan called people who had criticized his guest on TikTok “retarded.” After his guest replied “you can’t say that,” Rogan said, “But I’m on Spotify. You can get away with it.” He also said the word on November 26 edition of his show and claimed that the word means “you’ve been held back in learning because you’ve applied the wrong kind of thinking to things. It does not mean someone with Down syndrome, and this idea that those two are … the same thing and it’s a slur or it’s a terrible thing to say, that’s not true. It’s not right.”
  • On August 20, Rogan derided an unnamed trans woman, saying she had a “terrorist beard” and that “there’s no way you’re a woman.” Rogan continued: “There are definitely people with legitimate gender dysphoria that want to be a woman, and they’re biologically male. And then there’s grifters. There’s crazy people. There’s people that have locked on to this movement.”
  • On August 12, Rogan agreed with his guest Andrew Schulz’s comments when Schulz used an anti-trans slur and compared trans people to QAnon conspiracy theorists, asserting, “QAnon is just like conservative t——s. That’s really all they are.” Rogan also claimed that being nonbinary is “very, very self-indulgent,” and said that trans people are “not experiencing real adversity or, you know, real discrimination, so you create discrimination against yourself.”
  • On August 8, Rogan used an anti-Chinese slur, complaining, “You can’t say Chinaman.”
  • On July 3, Rogan mocked and misgendered a young person who came out as trans to his friends. He also said that it’s “fashionable” to be nonbinary, later claiming, “It’s going to get worse.”
  • On October 1, 2020, Rogan and comedian Tim Dillon joked about shooting, killing, and vaporizing homeless people.

Spotify’s COVID-19 medical misinformation policies are extremely narrow 

In its so-called effort to “ensure that everyone has a safe and enjoyable experience,” Spotify says it prohibits content that spreads “dangerous deceptive medical information.” However, Spotify has allowed Rogan to repeatedly lie about the COVID-19 pandemic, including encouraging people not to get vaccinated against COVID-19, lying that mRNA vaccines are really “gene therapy,” and claiming the vaccine could have caused President Joe Biden to die. 

Spotify’s platform rules claim to prohibit:

“Content that promotes dangerous false or dangerous deceptive medical information that may cause offline harm or poses a direct threat to public health includes, but may not be limited to:

  • asserting that AIDS, COVID-19, cancer or other serious life threatening diseases are a hoax or not real
  • encouraging the consumption of bleach products to cure various illnesses and diseases
  • promoting or suggesting that vaccines approved by local health authorities are designed to cause death 
  • encouraging people to purposely get infected with COVID-19 in order to build immunity to it (e.g. promoting or hosting ‘coronavirus parties’)”

Spotify’s list of examples is both too limited and too specific, potentially permitting many other dangerous types of misinformation, including about vaccines and masks. For instance, as The Verge’s Ashley Carman reported, “These guidelines seemingly allow podcasters to say the vaccines cause death — just not that they are designed to cause death.”

This is reflected in the kinds of lies and misleading claims that Rogan and his guests have made with impunity on Spotify:

  • On January 20, author James Lindsay questioned whether wearing masks is worth “the side effects,” including “breathing back in your gross mouth stuff and getting pneumonia if you’re, say, 6 years old.”
  • On December 31, serial misinformer Robert Malone downplayed the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines and claimed people have been “hypnotized” into trusting COVID-19 prevention measures. Malone then compared this hypnosis to methods used in Nazi Germany. 
  • During that same episode, Rogan claimed that the omicron variant is “essentially just a cold” and asked Malone, “Why is the vaccine uniquely dangerous to children?” 
  • On December 13, vaccine fearmongerer Peter McCullough spread numerous false and misleading claims about the pandemic. McCullough asserted that “it’s pretty clear that this [pandemic] was planned” and lied that “the virus is not spread asymptomatically.”
  • On November 22, Rogan falsely asserted that children do not need to get a COVID-19 vaccine, saying, “They’re trying to say that children need it when they don’t. They don’t need it.” 
  • On October 12, “COVID contrarian” Alex Berenson falsely asserted that “people who are vaccinated with two doses are more likely to be infected with SARS-CoV-2 than people who are not vaccinated.”
  • On September 30, Rogan baselessly suggested that President Joe Biden did not actually receive a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot on TV, falsely claiming that it would be unsafe and potentially deadly to do so on live TV. 
  • On August 20, Rogan falsely asserted that mRNA coronavirus vaccines are “really gene therapy” and lied that it is “not logical, it’s not rational, and it’s not supported by science” to advise people with natural immunity to get a coronavirus vaccine. Notably, Rogan made the same false claim that mRNA vaccines are a form of “gene therapy” throughout 2021, including on August 18September 21November 8, and November 10.
  • On August 6,  Rogan fearmongered that vaccine passports would move the U.S. “one step closer to dictatorship” and lied that getting the coronavirus vaccine is not effective in preventing the disease, saying, “All you hear is take this vaccine that doesn’t even prevent you from getting the disease, or you can’t go to the sauna or wherever the fuck you want to go. … If it was a vaccine that — it’s more of a treatment than it is a vaccine, really, if you look at it.”
  • On June 22, Rogan dedicated an entire episode of his podcast with Dr. Pierre Kory and Bret Weinstein to promoting ivermectin as a prophylactic and therapeutic for COVID-19, even though it is an unproven and potentially dangerous treatment for the disease. During the podcast, Weinstein claimed that a study showed “ivermectin alone, if properly utilized, is capable of driving this pathogen to extinction,” and Rogan explained its use for prevention of COVID-19, saying, “All it means is to take the drug to anticipate that you may get it, so if you’re in a high-risk area you take it and it’ll protect you from infection.” Kory claimed that “ivermectin is the COVID killer and should be the mainstay of any early outpatient treatment regimen.”
  • On April 28, Rogan falsely claimed that any lockdown to prevent the spread of COVID-19 “makes things worse,” saying, “It’s worse. It makes things worse, you know why — because people go inside. They are trapped inside and that’s where it spreads.”
  • On April 23, Rogan encouraged “healthy” young people not to get a COVID-19 vaccine, saying, “If you’re like 21 years old, and you say to me, should I get vaccinated? I’ll go, no.” 

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Alex Paterson is a researcher for the LGBTQ program at Media Matters, where he has worked since 2019. Alex holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from Montana State University and has a background in LGBTQ advocacy, including previous work at the National LGBTQ Task Force and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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The preceding article was previously published by Media Matters for America and is republished by permission.

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Research/Study

150 people on Tennessee’s sex offender registry for HIV-related conviction

Nearly one-half of HIV registrants on the SOR were women and over three-quarters of HIV registrants were Black

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Los Angeles Blade graphic

LOS ANGELES – At least 154 people have been placed on Tennessee’s sex offender registry (SOR) for an HIV-related conviction since 1993, according to a new report by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law.

Enforcement of HIV crimes in Tennessee disproportionately affects women and Black people. Nearly one-half of HIV registrants on the SOR were women and over three-quarters of HIV registrants were Black.

Tennessee’s two primary HIV criminalization laws—aggravated prostitution and criminal exposure—make it a felony for people living with HIV to engage in sex work or other activities, such as intimate contact, blood donation, or needle exchange, without disclosing their status. Both are considered a “violent sexual offense” and require a person convicted to register as a sex offender for life.

Examining Tennessee’s sex offender registry, researchers found that Shelby County, home to Memphis, accounts for most of the state’s HIV convictions. Shelby County makes up only 13% of Tennessee’s population and 37% of the population of people living with HIV in the state, but 64% of HIV registrants on the SOR. Moreover, while Black Tennesseans were only 17% of the state’s population and 56% of people living with HIV in the state, 75% of all HIV registrants were Black.

In Shelby County, 91% of aggravated prostitution convictions resulted from police sting operations in which no physical contact ever occurred. In addition, the case files showed that 75% of those convicted were Black women. When it came to criminal exposure case files, all of those convicted except one person were Black men.

“Tennessee’s HIV criminal laws were enacted at a time when little was known about HIV and before modern medical advances were available to treat and prevent HIV,” said lead author Nathan Cisneros, HIV Criminalization Analyst at the Williams Institute. “Tennessee’s outdated laws do not require actual transmission or the intent to transmit HIV. Moreover, the laws ignore whether the person living with HIV is in treatment and virally suppressed and therefore cannot transmit HIV.”

KEY FINDINGS

  • Incarcerating people for HIV-related offenses has cost Tennessee at least $3.8 million.
  • Of the 154 people who have been placed on Tennessee’s SOR for an HIV-related conviction, 51% were convicted of aggravated prostitution, 46% were convicted of criminal exposure, and 3% were convicted of both.
  • Women account for 26% of people living with HIV in Tennessee and 4% of people on the SOR, but 46% of the SOR’s HIV registrants.
  • Black people account for 17% of people living in Tennessee, 56% of those living with HIV, 27% of people on the SOR, but 75% of the SOR’s HIV registrants.
  • Black women were the majority of aggravated prostitution registrants (57%), while Black men were the majority of criminal exposure registrants (64%).
  • People with an HIV-related offense are more economically vulnerable when compared to others on the state’s SOR.
    • One in five (19%) HIV registrants were homeless compared to 9% of all SOR registrants.
    • 28% of HIV registrants reported an employer address compared to about half (49%) of all SOR registrants.
  • Shelby County has one aggravated prostitution conviction for every 115 people living with HIV in the county, and Black people were 90% of all people convicted for aggravated prostitution.
    • Over 90% of aggravated prostitution convictions in Shelby County were the result of police sting operations.
    • Only 3% of aggravated prostitution convictions in Shelby County alleged any intimate contact.
    • Nearly all (95%) people arrested in Shelby County for criminal exposure were Black men, compared to 64% of people statewide.  

The Williams Institute has conducted research on HIV criminalization in numerous U.S. states.

Read the report

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Research/Study

New Pew Research Center poll: Americans at odds over Trans issues 

Strong majorities favor non-discrimination protections but weaker support for access to transition-related care among minors

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Texas trans activist Landon Richie speaking at Texas Capitol against trans youth sports bill (Los Angeles Blade file photo)

WASHINGTON – A new survey from a leading non-partisan research center reveals Americans have mixed views on transgender issues at a time when states are moving forward with measures against transgender youth, with strong majorities favoring non-discrimination protections but weaker support for access to transition-related care among minors and participation in school sports.

The Pew Research Center issued the findings on Tuesday as part of the results of its ongoing study to better understand Americans’ views about gender identity and people who are transgender or non-binary. The findings are based on a survey of 10,188 U.S. adults from data collected as part of a larger survey conducted May 16-22.

A majority of respondents by wide margins favor non-discrimination protections for transgender people. A full 64 percent back laws or policies that would protect transgender people from discrimination in jobs, housing, and public spaces, while roughly 8-in-10 acknowledge transgender people face at least some discrimination in our society.

Additionally, nearly one half of Americans say it’s extremely important to use a transgender person’s new name after they undergo a transition, while an additional 22 percent say that is somewhat important. A smaller percentage, 34 percent, say using a transgender person’s pronouns is extremely important, and 21 percent say it is somewhat important.

But other findings were less supportive:

  • 60 percent say a person’s gender is determined by sex assigned at birth, reflecting an increase from 56 percent in 2021 and 54 percent in 2017, compared to 38 percent who say gender can be different from sex assigned at birth.
  • 54 percent say society has either gone too far or been about right in terms of acceptance, underscoring an ambivalence around transgender issues even among those who see at least some discrimination against transgender people.
  • About six-in-ten adults, or 58 precent, favor proposals that would require transgender athletes to compete on teams that match the sex they were assigned at birth as opposed to teams consistent with their gender identity, compared to 17 percent who oppose that and 24 percent neither favor nor oppose it.
  • 46 percent favor making it illegal for health care professionals to provide transition-related care, such as hormones or gender reassignment surgery, to someone younger than 18, compared to 31 percent who oppose it.
  • Americans are more evenly split when it comes to making it illegal for public school districts to teach about gender identity in elementary schools (which is favored by 41 percent, and opposed by 38 percent) and investigating parents for child abuse if they help someone younger than 18 obtain transition-related care (37 percent are in favor and 36 percent oppose it).

Young adults took the lead in terms of supporting change and acceptance. Half of adults ages 18 to 29 say someone can be a man or a woman even if that differs from the sex they were assigned at birth, compared to about four-in-10 of those ages 30 to 49 and about one-third of respondents 50 and older.

Predictably, stark differences could be found along party lines. Democrats by 59 precent say society hasn’t gone far enough in accepting people who are transgender, while 15 percent say it has gone too far and 24 percent say it’s been about right. For Republicans, 10 percent say society hasn’t gone far enough, while 66 percent say it’s gone too far and 22 percent say it’s been about right.

Read the full report here.

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News Analysis

Marriott hosting anti-LGBTQ Moms for Liberty’s national conference 

Moms for Liberty spouts overt hate against the LGBTQ community, regularly targeting trans individuals and LGBTQ books

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Graphic by Andrea Austria for Media Matters

By Olivia Little | WASHINGTON – Marriott International claims to support the LGBTQ community and celebrate Pride Month, but the hotel chain is hosting a national conference for Moms for Liberty, an overtly anti-LGBTQ organization known for strategically harassing public school employees and advocating for school book bans

Marriott has vocally celebrated Pride Month for years, even launching a “Love Travels” campaign in support of organizations and individuals advocating for inclusion and equity. 

Despite Marriott’s open LGBTQ support, Moms for Liberty will hold its national summit at a Marriott hotel in Tampa, Florida, next month, with a speaker lineup packed with anti-LGBTQ figures. Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis — who recently signed the state’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill into law — will headline the conference, appearing along with Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL), author of a manifesto that denies the existence of trans people, and anti-LGBTQ conservative commentator Allie Beth Stuckey.

Moms for Liberty spouts overt hate against the LGBTQ community, regularly targeting trans individuals. The group’s official Twitter page quoted an article in March claiming that The Trevor Project — the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ youth — “is actively grooming children into a trans identity.” As recently as June 13, Moms for Liberty described the increase of young people identifying as trans as a “transgender contagion” and encourage parents to “fight” it. 

The organization has advocated for the removal of select books with LGBTQ themes, describing the basis for removal as “sexually explicit” content — all while partnering with transphobic publishers to place right-wing propaganda in public school libraries. One chapter even filed a public records request asking for a list of “LGBTQ” book titles from the school library.

Marriott is allowing a clearly anti-LGBTQ organization to use its facilities to continue spreading hate — and is subsequently profiting from that hate.

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Olivia Little is a researcher at Media Matters. She holds a bachelor’s degree in law and public policy from Indiana University. Olivia previously worked as a research associate for Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2020 presidential campaign.

The preceding article was previously published by Media Matters for America and is republished with permission.

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