JOE ROGAN FREE SPEECH CONTROVERSY
The recent controversies around the world’s biggest podcaster, Joe Rogan, have led to Spotify’s CEO, Daniel Ek, to stand by the media personality saying that “Cancelling voices is not the answer”.
While that has been the case symbolically, Spotify has privately removed over 100 episodes of the Joe Rogan Experience from Spotify, leading to a backlash from Joe’s diehard supporters.
Amidst the chaos, a relatively new media player, Rumble, released a statement on February 8 offering Rogan $100 million USD for four years to exclusively host The Joe Rogan Experience – a similar deal that Rogan received from Spotify in response to alleged censorship by YouTube.
In a statement, Rumble’s CEO, Chris Pavlovski, said to Rogan: “Dear Joe, we stand with you, your guests and your legion of fans in desire for real conversation…How about you bring all your shows to Rumble, both old and new, with no censorship, for 100 million bucks over four years”.
— Rumble (@rumblevideo) February 7, 2022
It is not clear if Rogan can even legally break his deal with Spotify, but it is an interesting business move by Rumble, as they are a relatively unknown player in the media landscape.
SO WHAT THE HELL IS RUMBLE?
Founded in 2013 by Chris Pavlovski, a technology entrepreneur from Canada, Rumble is a Canadian online video platform headquartered in Toronto.
Popular with ‘right-leaning Americans’ its monthly user count has experienced rapid growth, boasting 31.9 million by the end of the first quarter of 2021.
Being popular among U.S. conservatives seeking an alternative to Big Tech, it has agreed to host Donald Trump’s social media venture, Truth, by offering technology and cloud services.
CEO, Chris Pavlovski, said, “Rumble is designed to be the rails and independent infrastructure that is immune to cancel culture…We are a movement that does not stifle, censor or punish creativity and believe everyone benefits from access to a neutral network with diverse ideas and opinions.”
The platform is also backed by billionaire Peter Thiel, who was a co-founder of PayPal, Palantir Technologies, Founders Fund, and was the first outside investor in Facebook. So he clearly sees upside potential in the platform.
Having been described by various researchers as a hub of misinformation and conspiracy theories, especially regarding the COVID-19 pandemic; the video-hosting platform has been described as “the worst possible things about YouTube amplified.”
While this may be the case, Rumble is a tantalising option for those feeling that free speech is being stifled by the big tech players – whether that be true or not.
CHANGING SOCIAL MEDIA LANDSCAPE
An interesting shift has been occurring over the last decade in the tech/social media space, where platforms are slowly becoming synonymous with a political or ideological affiliation.
This has inevitably led to the proliferation of ‘echo-chambers’ with ideas rarely being challenged and often taken to extremes without the presence of a healthy debate or critique.
Whatever side you are on when it comes to things like Joe Rogan or Donald Trump, one thing is for sure – eco chambers are a very dangerous thing for society at large and will likely further entrench division between the vague groups of ‘left’ and ‘right’. Which have both been known to silence voices from viewpoints contrary to their own.
Only time will tell if platforms like Rumble can provide a space for healthy nuanced debate. Or if they are part of a wider sickness in the public sphere that will continue to divide us.