Substack is Still Struggling With Nazi Newsletter Backlash

Line of people waiting to leave substack
T. Schneider/Shutterstock Gemenacom/Shutterstock estar 2020/Shutterstock

Following the boycott of some of its biggest writers last week, pressure has started mounting on Substack to do something about its purported anti-semitism problem. 

As previously reported by Passionfruit, despite Substack’s insistence that they penalize creators that spread “hate,” on Nov. 28, The Atlantic found that Nazi newsletters — littered with swastikas and references to “the Jewish question” — were not just surviving on the platform but attracting tens of thousands of subscribers. In response, a group of over 100 Substack writers, known as the “Substackers Against Nazis,” published an open letter on Dec. 14 demanding Substack take action against antisemitism on the platform.

As reported by The Information, another significant development occurred earlier this week when Rusty Foster, a popular digital culture writer on the platform, made a very public switch to Beehiiv. According to the creator, they’ve been personally reassured by Beehiiv’s CEO that anti-trans content and Nazis were banned from the platform.

Shortly after this occurred, Substack finally removed a small number of publications promoting Nazi content. While there’s no confirmation these two instances are related, the timing is, well, convenient, to say the least.

“If and when we become aware of other content that violates our guidelines, we will take appropriate action,” the company said in a statement cited by NBC.

There is a huge caveat though — Substack still hasn’t made changes to its content moderation policies, as they claim the newsletters removed violated their existing rules.

In a statement to Fast Company, the brand said that “Substack has a content moderation policy that protects against extremes — like incitements to violence — but we do not subjectively censor writers outside of those policies.”

“We are actively working on more reporting tools that can be used to flag content that potentially violates our guidelines, and we will continue working on tools for user moderation so Substack users can set and refine the terms of their own experience on the platform,” they added to NBC.

But will this be enough to reverse the damage already done? They still seem to be abiding by their earlier, more cavalier stance on content moderation, so if you ask me, this issue is far from over.

Are you a Substack creator with newsworthy information about your experience on the platform? Contact us at [email protected].

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