Earlier this month, The Atlantic reported that "Substack has a Nazi Problem."
On December 21st, co-founder Hamish McKenzie published a note on his platform with a clear answer:
I just want to make it clear that we don’t like Nazis either—we wish no-one held those views. But some people do hold those and other extreme views. Given that, we don’t think that censorship (including through demonetizing publications) makes the problem go away—in fact, it makes it worse.
I don't understand why, but many Silicon Valley platforms, which are often run by white men, seem to confuse First Amendment free speech rights with a need to enable the propagation of hateful content.
I believe in free speech in the Constitutional sense: the government should not be allowed to censor individuals or punish people for their views, hateful or otherwise.
However, I think it is common sense that enabling hateful speech to spread on the Internet via a private platform easily is not a protected right, nor do platforms have any obligation to enable this.
I deleted my Twitter account when Elon Musk took over the platform, because he made it clear that Twitter would no longer enforce its terms of service which prevent racist speech.
Substack has a content policy that appears would prohibit publishing or monetizing Nazi content:
Substack cannot be used to publish content or fund initiatives that incite violence based on protected classes. Offending behavior includes credible threats of physical harm to people based on their race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, disability or medical condition.
Substack has made it clear it will not follow or enforce this policy. As some critical thinkers have said, in fact, Substack is choosing to monetize Nazi content and sees an opportunity here.
Substack can do what it likes, but I can no longer use the platform as a publishing tool nor share 10% of the (small) revenues from my newsletter CardsFTW with it.
This site, my personal blog, is published with the open-source Ghost platform. While migrating my newsletter was pretty low on a list of things I wanted to do, we will be migrating CardsFTW to a self-hosted Ghost site.
It's well-documented that lies and hate spread faster on the internet. It's disappointing that the team behind Substack is choosing revenue over the right choice. They cannot hide behind free speech for Nazi content: they are not the government, and platforms of all kinds are a part of society that owes a debt to the rest of us to prevent hate from spreading. The idea that demonetizing this content makes it worse is, quite frankly, absurdist to me.
I try not to write a lot about politics online, but as a Jew in a year in which anti-semitism and anti-Semitic violence have increased dramatically, I cannot simply ignore the position of Substack. It will probably take me a few weeks to implement the change, but I hope my subscribers will follow me and enjoy my regular programming about payments.
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