With great power and success of podcasting comes great responsibility. According to a recent report via The New York Times, approximately one in three Americans listen to podcasts at least once a month. The emergence of podcasting marks a shift away from traditional media (i.e., television and radio) as the means to how information is consumed. No podcast is more evident of this power than that of the highly controversial The Joe Rogan Experience.
In a June 19, 2019 podcast, comedian Andrew Schulz commented, “a conversation isn't a co-sign” to underscore the ethical dilemma of hosting controversial guests. Many of Rogan’s controversial guests have been targeted by a recent movement of deplatforming, a form of political activism to restrict and/or deny access of a platform (e.g., a podcast). The framing of deplatforming is often used in tandem with the topic of perpetuating hate speech. Individuals who have been both deplatformed and appeared on Rogan’s podcast including Alex Jones, Milo Yiannopoulos, and Gavin McInnes. Additionally, Rogan hosted Steven Crowder who was demonetized from YouTube but not deplatformed.
Each platform in question - Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube - provide users with terms of services and policies. Perhaps implicitly unclear is what constitutes harmful or potentially dangerous dissemination of information. As an example, traditional celebrities have come under scrutiny for using the internet as a platform to spread potentially harmful information such as anti-vaccination messaging. Similar controversies - including Flat Earthers - have struck yet another consideration as to whose ideas are allowed to be showcased online.
This ethical quandary highlights the double-edged sword of media creation and the rules of the different platforms. YouTube banned Alex Jones and his company, InfoWars, from their platform - as content creators. However, YouTube continues to allow other individuals (e.g., Rogan and Logan Paul) to have Jones on as a guest. Perhaps YouTube has decided that overall viewership and clicks are more important than doubling-down on restricting Alex Jones on their platform.
After all, 823,000 people watching Logan Paul’s Impaulsive with Alex Jones and another 14.8 million people on The Joe Rogan Experience must be good for business.