Substackers Against Nazis
A collective letter to Substack leadership
Hello JoeWrote readers,
While I’m excited about the potential Substack provides independent writers, the platform has a real problem. Despite moderating certain kinds of writing, such as spam and pornography, Substack’s leaders have turned a blind eye to, and in some cases even promoted, neo-Nazis and White Nationalists.
This is a collective letter from Substack writers to the company’s leadership demanding an answer to a very simple question — What do you plan to do about the Nazis, White Nationalists, and fascists using Substack to promote their vile ideology? Do you plan to moderate their content, as you have done with sex workers? Or, do you plan to continue to profit from writers who employ swastikas, promote The Great Replacement Theory, and celebrate the holocaust?
This letter was started byand has already been signed by over 200 Substack publications. Unsurprisingly, many of the usual suspects have tried to malign this letter as an attempt at “cancel culture” and “policing speech we disagree with.” It is not. This letter is not calling for the U.S. government to prevent certain speech. It is calling for an answer from the leadership of a private company, who, absent a response, can only be assumed to be comfortable with profiting off the ideology of Adolf Hitler.
Below is the letter.
In Solidarity — Joe
Dear Chris, Hamish & Jairaj:
We’re asking a very simple question that has somehow been made complicated: Why are you platforming and monetizing Nazis?
“Some Substack newsletters by Nazis and white nationalists have thousands or tens of thousands of subscribers, making the platform a new and valuable tool for creating mailing lists for the far right. And many accept paid subscriptions through Substack, seemingly flouting terms of service that ban attempts to ‘publish content or fund initiatives that incite violence based on protected classes’...Substack, which takes a 10 percent cut of subscription revenue, makes money when readers pay for Nazi newsletters.”
As Patrick Casey, a leader of a now-defunct neo-Nazi group who is banned on nearly every other social platform except Substack, wrote on here in 2021: “I’m able to live comfortably doing something I find enjoyable and fulfilling. The cause isn’t going anywhere.” Several Nazis and white supremacists including Richard Spencer not only have paid subscriptions turned on but have received Substack “Bestseller” badges, indicating that they are making at a minimum thousands of dollars a year.
From our perspective as Substack publishers, it is unfathomable that someone with a swastika avatar, who writes about “The Jewish question,” or who promotes Great Replacement Theory, could be given the tools to succeed on your platform. And yet you’ve been unable to adequately explain your position.
In the past you have defended your decision to platform bigotry by saying you “make decisions based on principles not PR” and “will stick to our hands-off approach to content moderation.” But there’s a difference between a hands-off approach and putting your thumb on the scale. We know you moderate some content, including spam sites and newsletters written by sex workers. Why do you choose to promote and allow the monetization of sites that traffic in white nationalism?
Your unwillingness to play by your own rules on this issue has already led to the announced departures of several prominent Substackers, including Rusty Foster and Helena Fitzgerald. They follow previous exoduses of writers, including Substack Pro recipient Grace Lavery and Jude Ellison S. Doyle, who left with similar concerns.
As journalist Casey Newton told his more than 166,000 Substack subscribers after Katz’s piece came out: “The correct number of newsletters using Nazi symbols that you host and profit from on your platform is zero.”
We, your publishers, want to hear from you on the official Substack newsletter. Is platforming Nazis part of your vision of success? Let us know—from there we can each decide if this is still where we want to be.
Substackers Against Nazis
Thanks for reading. Please share this post with others. If you’re a publisher who would like to join this collective effort, we encourage you to repost the letter on your own Substack. If you want to you can let us know you’ve done so here and we’ll add you to the signatory page.
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