Substack removes several Nazi newsletters but won’t proactively moderate far-right publishers

World News

Substack removed five newsletters for violating its guidelines on incitement of violence on Monday, but the company insisted that it has no plans to change its content rules or proactively remove content from neo-Nazis or far-right publishers, despite facing backlash from other writers on the platform for allowing such content.
In this photo illustration, the Substack logo is displayed...

Substack said it is taking down five newsletters that violated its content policy on incitement of violence.

SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Key Takeaways
  • According to Platformer, which reported the removals first, Substack said the takedowns did not reflect a change in content policy, but were instead a “result of reconsidering how it interprets its existing policies.”
  • Substack confirmed it had removed five newsletters without disclosing them, but the Platformer reported that the affected publications expressed “support for Nazis.”
  • The company’s co-founders Chris Best, Hamish McKenzie, and Jairaj Sethi said none of the removed newsletters had paid subscriptions enabled and only accounted for around 100 active readers on the platform.
  • The co-founders said Substack will take action in the future when it becomes “aware of other content that violates our guidelines,” while noting there will be no proactive efforts to takedown far-right or neo-Nazi content, according to Platformer.
  • The statement added that Substack was working on building reporting tools to flag content that violates the platform’s guidelines and moderation tools that allow Substack users to tweak what content is visible to them.
Crucial Quote

“We’ve heard your feedback about Substack’s content moderation approach, and we understand your concerns and those of some other writers on the platform. We sincerely regret how this controversy has affected writers on Substack,” Best, McKenzie and Sethi’s statement added.

Key Background

The controversy began in November after the Atlantic reported on Substack newsletters run by neo-Nazi and white supremacist leaders—including the Charlottesville Unite the Right Rally organizer Richard Spencer and former Identity Evropa leader Patrick Casey. Both Spencer and Casey’s newsletters are monetized, with the former having more than 4,000 subscribers. The report triggered a backlash against Substack from several other publishers on the platform, with more than 100 of them signing a petition demanding to know why neo-Nazis and far-right figures were being allowed to publish and monetize their content on the site. McKenzie responded to the controversy by stating the company doesn’t like Nazis either, but it doesn’t think “that censorship (including through demonetizing publications) makes the problem go away—in fact, it makes it worse.” He added, “subjecting ideas to open discourse is the best way to strip bad ideas of their power.” McKenzie’s response caused some publishers to leave Substack for alternative platforms.

Contra

Despite facing backlash over its hands-off moderation approach, another group of Substack authors, including Bari Weiss and Richard Dawkins, signed a post calling on the platform to stick to its existing approach.

This article was first published on forbes.com and all figures are in USD,

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