Thanks to everyone who wrote to us over the break regarding Substack’s response to criticism that it is hosting and monetizing dozens of extremist publications, including some that are openly advocating for genocide against Jewish people.
In the wake of Jonathan M. Katz’s November article on the subject in The Atlantic, 247 Substack writers published an open letter asking the company to clarify its policies. On December 21, Substack co-founder Hamish McKenzie delivered the company’s answer in a blog post. While allowing that “we don’t like Nazis either” and stating that Substack wished “no-one held those views,” McKenzie said that “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,” he wrote. “We believe that supporting individual rights and civil liberties while subjecting ideas to open discourse is the best way to strip bad ideas of their power.”
This statement appeared to be a tacit admission that Substack is not always enforcing its own content guidelines, which state that “Substack cannot be used to publish content or fund initiatives that incite violence based on protected classes.” It also seems all but certain to worsen the problem by inviting Nazis to Substack and telling them explicitly that they can make money there. (Substack takes 10 percent of subscription revenue from every paid site on the network, including Platformer.)
As I’ve already said, I unsubscribed from all paid substack content. Some of my subscriptions won’t expire for a year so I’ll read the newsletters but unless Substack reverses course and takes a hard stance against the vile content they are currently allowing on their platform, I’ll be done with them once my Platformer subscription expires. I would have cancelled it right away and been out, but it renewed the day before I was able take action.
Overall, I like that Platformer has responded and may have a big enough voice to do something about the issue. I’m not holding my breath on Substack though. Even if they make a change now, very few tech platforms are able to stick to a simple rule like “no Nazi’s” because they like money too much. They seem to do barely enough to end the current hot water and then when you check a few months later, the Nazi’s are back and the tech company acts surprised while hoping this time it blows over and they don’t have to do anything about the issue.