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Spotify CEO Defends Keeping Joe Rogan Podcast Episodes That Some Employees Slammed as Transphobic

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  • Spotify reportedly held a company-wide meeting Wednesday where several employees expressed disdain for the fact that the platform carries certain episodes of The Joe Rogan Experience which they say include “transphobic” remarks.
  • “You realize that people are not looking at this objectively,” Rogan said in a July podcast. “They are activists. they have this agenda, and the agenda is very ideologically driven that anybody who even thinks they might be trans should be trans, are trans, and the more trans people the better. And the more kids that transition, the better.”
  • In another episode, Rogan deadnamed and misgendered Caitlin Jenner when describing a joke he performed in 2016 that suggested Jenner had been “[talked] into” becoming a woman by the Kardashian-Jenner’s. 
  • According to Vice’s Motherboard, Spotify CEO Daniel Ek said the company heard its staff’s concerns but has decided that the content in question will not be removed. A spokesperson later said that the content did not violate the platform’s policies.

Spotify Employees Want Certain JRE Podcasts Pulled

At an internal company-wide meeting on Wednesday, Spotify employees reportedly voiced concerns about the platform carrying episodes of Joe Rogan’s podcast which include comments they found“transphobic.”

Vice’s Motherboard first reported on the news, citing three sources who provided details of the meeting. All remained anonymous because they aren’t authorized to discuss internal Spotify issues with the press. 

According to these sources, several employees reportedly asked CEO Daniel Ek why these episodes remained on the platform, with one employee saying LGBTQ+ employees “feel unwelcome and alienated because of leadership’s response in JRE conversations.”

“Why has Spotify chosen to ignore Spectrum [Employee Resource Group’s] guidance about transphobic content in the [Joe Rogan Experience] catalog?” another employee allegedly asked Ek.

One of the moments the employees are referring to stems from a podcast in July. In it, Rogan spoke with Abigail Shrier, author of the book Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters. 

“And by the resistance to your book and the resistance to these conversations, we realize that people are not looking at this objectively,” Rogan said of transgender issues. “This is not something that everyone’s looking at all sides of it. They are activists. They have this agenda, and the agenda is very ideologically driven that anybody who even thinks they might be trans should be trans, are trans, and the more trans people the better. And the more kids that transition, the better.”

Ek Defends Keeping Controversial Podcasts

For now, Spotify has taken the stance that this episode can remain on the platform.

“In the case of Joe Rogan, a total of 10 meetings have been held with various groups and individuals to hear their respective concerns,” Ek said at the meeting, according to Motherboard’s sources. “And some of them want Rogan removed because of things he’s said in the past.”

“Others have concerns specifically over a recent episode,” Ek reportedly added in reference to Rogan’s July podcast with Shrier. “And Joe Rogan and the episode in question have been reviewed extensively. The fact that we aren’t changing our position doesn’t mean we aren’t listening. It just means we made a different judgment call.”

Notably, those three internal sources also told Motherboard that Ek instructed employees not to leak this discussion to the media, reportedly saying “If we can’t have open, confidential debates, we will have to move those discussions to closed doors.”

Once this story did reach the media, however, a Spotify spokesperson told Motherboard: “At Spotify, we are strongly committed to the LGBTQ+ community and diversity in all of its forms. All employees are respected and we believe that everyone has a right to be heard.”

“All content on Spotify is subject to our long-standing content guidelines. Our diverse team of experts reviewed the content in question and determined that it did not meet the criteria for removal from our platform.”

Rogan’s Comments About Caitlyn Jenner

In addition to Rogan’s podcast featuring Shrier, Rogan has also come under fire for a Sept. 11 podcast with mixed martial artist Tim Kennedy. In that episode, Rogan deadnames and misgenders Caitlyn Jenner.

He also Rogan breaks down his writing process for a joke he made about Jenner in his 2016 Netflix special, “Triggered.”

“I wanted to get to, people are saying, ‘He was born a woman. He’s always been a woman,’” Rogan said of Jenner. “I was like, ‘Maybe, or maybe if you live with crazy bitches long enough, they fucking turn you into one.’ Maybe you go crazy. Maybe that, too.”

After calling the Kardashian-Jenner family “crazy bitches,” Rogan proceeded to continue breaking down his joke.

“And so I came up with this thing where they’re demons and they whisper in his ear in the middle of the night, and they talk him into being a woman, but it took forever to figure out a way — but it worked.”

“Like, it worked, and people didn’t even get mad at me for it. I just had to figure out a way to do it, where first of all, I belittle myself, and then, I explain it in a way where it’s not dehumanizing trans people. It’s just like saying, ‘Are we sure?’” 

However, a number of people have now criticized those comments, including Jenner herself, who told TMZ Wednesday, “This is not the first time he’s said things like this.”

“He’s a homophobic, transphobic ass.”

“Joe Rogan has absolutely no idea when it comes to trans issues,” she continued. “He says maybe because I was around all these ‘crazy bitches’ that I, you know, transitioned. It’s not even close. I’ve had these — I’ve been gender dysphoric my entire life.”

Some have pushed back on the idea that Rogan’s comments about Jenner were deliberately malicious, arguing that they began and ended as a joke. 

“Being gender dysphoric, transitioning, all of that is not a joke,” Jenner said in response to such defense of Rogan. “It’s very serious stuff. You’re concerning family, friends, society, all of these types of things, and I just feel like Joe Rogan has a lot to learn.” 

In 2018, Twitter banned the misgendering or deadnaming transgender people — a move Rogan has been critical of. 

Previous Accusations of Censorship

At the beginning of the month, Rogan’s exclusive streaming deal with Spotify officially began. Almost immediately after the platform started hosting his old podcasts, users noticed that some old episodes didn’t appear. That’s despite the fact that Rogan had said that his entire library would be available to stream.

Notably, at the time, it also seemed like the missing podcasts had a common link: they all featured controversial figures such as Alex Jones, Chris D’Elia, Milo Yiannopoulos, Gavin McInnes.

However, people later began to notice that several other missing episodes featured far less controversial figures such as actor Tommy Chong and comedian Nick Kroll.

Nonetheless, many accused Spotify of censoring controversial voices, especially since Rogan is known for talking to people across the political spectrum.

Later, Alex Jones, who said he spoke with Rogan about the matter, claimed Spotify needed to migrate over 1,500+ files, some of which were corrupted. He also said that Spotify wanted a second rollout of episodes.

Here’s the key,” Jones added. “Joe Rogan’s favorite 100 episodes of the last 10 years or so will be left on YouTube starting December 31 when he goes exclusively to Spotify. For this couple months no man’s land the content will be on both platforms and will be migrating over.”

“And so that’s why the Alex Jones interview is not there. That’s why some of the other interviews aren’t there. Because those are going to be the exclusive interviews that are left on YouTube where, in Joe’s words, they’ll probably get more views than if they were on Spotify.”

See what others are saying: (Vice Motherboard) (Insider) (Fox News)

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Black Mirror or Reality? Microsoft Granted Patent for Tech That Lets It Create Chatbots of Dead People

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  • Microsoft has been granted a patent that would allow it to create artificial intelligence chatbots of dead people using “voice data, social media posts, electronic messages, written letters, etc.”
  • As Microsoft noted in its patent proposal, chatbots could also be created to imitate living people — opening the door for users to train a digital version of themselves to be used after they die. 
  • In the patent filing, Microsoft also suggested creating 2D or 3D models of chatbot subjects by studying images and videos of them.
  • Online, many noted the similarities between Microsoft’s patent and a 2013 episode of Black Mirror in which a woman creates an AI version of her deceased boyfriend. 

Microsoft Granted Controversial Patent

The United States Patent and Trademark Office has granted Microsoft a patent for technology that would allow it digitally revive dead people.

If implemented, Microsoft would use information like “voice data, social media posts, electronic messages, written letters, etc.,” to create artificial intelligence chatbots meant to replicate the person.

In its filing, Microsoft noted that the person could be “a friend, a relative, an acquaintance, a celebrity, a fictional character, a historical figure, a random entity, etc.”

Microsoft also noted, “the specific person may also correspond to oneself (e.g., the user creating/training the chat bot), or a version of oneself (e.g., oneself at a particular age or stage of life).”

As The Independent pointed out, that opens up the door for living users to be able to “train a digital replacement in the event of their death.”

But it doesn’t stop there. Microsoft has also suggested creating 2D or even 3D models of the person by studying images and videos of them.

Has Life Finally Become an Episode of Black Mirror?

Online, many noted the similarities between Microsoft’s patent and a 2013 episode of Black Mirror in which a character, played by Hayley Atwell, revives her recently-deceased boyfriend through an AI chatbot. As the episode progresses, that AI — played by Domhnall Gleeson — eventually becomes an exact replica android of her boyfriend. 

“More people that need to remember Black Mirror is a warning sign, not a product manual,” said Tama Leaver, an internet studies professor at Curtin University in Australia. 

Indeed, many critics have interpreted the episode, which focuses on the grief felt by Atwell’s character because of her loss, as an examination of “our own mortality and our desire to play God.” 

“It shines a spotlight on our desperate need to reverse a natural and necessary part of life without considering the consequences on our emotional well-being,” Roxanne Sancto said in a review for Paste Magazine.

In fact, series creator Charlie Brooker said part of his direct inspiration for writing the episode was based on Twitter and the question: “What if these people were dead and it was software emulating their thoughts?”

See what others are saying: (The Independent) (IGN) (Indie Wire)

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JoJo Siwa Fans Caution Against Labeling the Star’s Sexuality

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  • JoJo Siwa was featured in two TikTok videos Wednesday that many felt signaled her as a member of the LGBTQ+ community.
  • One showed her dancing and lip-syncing to Paramore’s “Aint It Fun,” along with members of the TikTok group Pride House LA. Siwa specifically mouthed the lyric “Now you’re one of us,” which is also the caption of the post. 
  • The second video showed her lip-syncing to Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way,” a song that has long been heralded as an LGBTQ+ anthem.  
  • The 17-year-old entertainer has not directly addressed speculations about her sexuality, prompting many to caution against labeling her.

JoJo Siwa TikToks Trigger Sexuality Speculations

JoJo Siwa fans are urging the public not to label the 17-year-old entertainer’s sexuality, especially when she has not explicitly done so herself.

The request came after Siwa became a trending topic Wednesday when many speculated that she had come out as a member of the LGBTQ+ community.

The speculations stem from two TikTok videos she was featured in. The first was posted on choreographer Kent Boyd’s account. It features him and other members of the TikTok group Pride House LA, which includes several stars from Disney Channel’s “Teen Beach Movie.”

It showed them all lip-syncing and dancing along to Paramore’s hit song “Ain’t It Fun.” Siaw specifically mouthed the lyric “Now you’re one of us.” That lyric was also the caption of the post.

@kentboyd_

Now your one of us!! @itsjojosiwa @molleegray @garrettclayton91 @jekajane #pridehousela

♬ now ur one of us – Mia Mugavero

Later in the day, Siwa posted a video on her personal TikTok account that featured her lip-syncing to Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way,” a song that has long been heralded as an LGBTQ+ anthem. 

Part of the lyrics she sang along to were: “No matter gay, straight or bi, lesbian transgender life / I’m on the right track baby, I was born to survive.” 

Reactions

These posts really started all the rumors online, and things picked up when influencers like James Charles, Bretman Rock, and others expressed their support.

Many fans also left comments on the videos saying they were proud of her, and journalist Yashar Ali tweeted, “This feels like a big deal if it is what I think it is…JoJo Siwa is hugely popular with kids.”

“And as someone just pointed out, if it is what I think it is, she’s doing it at the height of her fame when she’s selling out arenas,” he continued.

Despite the wave of praise, other fans feel that it’s inappropriate and harmful to make speculations about anyone’s sexuality.

Many have even shared their own experiences coming out, reminding people not to label Siwa as anything until she explicitly chooses to share that information herself. 

While Siwa hasn’t directly addressed any of the responses as of yet, she has retweeted a post that features her video, the pride flag emoji, and the caption, “@itsjojosiwa is on the right track, she was born this way.”

Still, others also noted that she has publicly asked Lady Gaga to collaborate with her in the past, so perhaps this is a signal about that happening soon.

Others believe it could also be Siwa’s way of signaling that she is an ally of the LGBTQ+ community.

See what others are saying: (Insider) (Metro) (Teen Vogue)

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Google Investigates Top AI Researcher Who Was Looking Into a Previous Firing

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  • Google is investigating the co-leader of its Ethical AI team, Margaret Mitchell.
  • While Mitchell has not been fired, her account has been locked because Google said she “exfiltrated thousands of files” and shared them with people outside of the company. 
  • In a tweet, Mitchell indicated that she had been “documenting current critical issues” related to the firing of another Google AI Ethicist in December.
  • Sources reportedly told Axios that Mitchell had been specifically looking for messages that showed discriminatory treatment of that fired researcher.

Google Investigates Margaret Mitchell

On Tuesday, Google stated that it is now investigating the co-leader of its Ethical Al team, Margaret Mitchell.

Mitchell has reportedly not been fired, but her company email account has been locked.

According to Google, its security systems automatically lock employee accounts “when they detect that the account is at risk of compromise due to credential problems or when an automated rule involving the handling of sensitive data has been triggered.”

In this case, Google said Mitchell “exfiltrated thousands of files” and then shared them with people outside of the company. 

Why Did Mitchell Begin Looking Through Files?

Mitchell’s investigation is related to the ousting of another top AI ethicist at Google, Timnit Gebru, who was fired at the beginning of December. 

Before Gebru was fired, managers reportedly instructed her to withdraw an unpublished research paper upon her return from vacation. In an email to the internal listserv Google Brain Women and Allies, Gebru then voiced frustration at managers for allegedly making the decision without her input. 

“You are not worth having any conversations about this, since you are not someone whose humanity (let alone expertise recognized by journalists, governments, scientists, civic organizations such as the electronic frontiers foundation etc) is acknowledged or valued in this company,” Gebru said in a critique of the decision. 

Gebru’s firing led to such a massive outcry from Google employees that Google CEO Sundar Pichai pledged to investigate the situation. 

On Friday, Mitchell indicated in a tweet that she was also looking into Gebru’s firing, saying that she was “documenting current critical issues from [Gebru’s] firing, point by point, inside and outside work.”

According to Axios, sources have said that Mitchell used automated scripts to siphon through messages that potentially document discriminatory treatment against Gebru.

See what others are saying: (Axios) (The Verge) (Bloomberg)

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