Hi everyone. Chris, Jairaj, and I wanted to let you know that we’ve heard and have been listening to all the views being expressed about how Substack should think about the presence of fringe voices on the platform (and particularly, in this case, Nazi views).
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.
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. We are committed to upholding and protecting freedom of expression, even when it hurts. As
Our content guidelines do have narrowly defined proscriptions, including a clause that prohibits incitements to violence. We will continue to actively enforce those rules while offering tools that let readers curate their own experiences and opt in to their preferred communities. Beyond that, we will stick to our decentralized approach to content moderation, which gives power to readers and writers. While not everyone agrees with this approach, many people do, as indicated by
’s post in defense of decentralized moderation on Substack, which was signed and endorsed by hundreds of writers on the platform, including some of the leading names in journalism, literature, and academia (see Elle’s post below). Even if we were in a minority of one, however, we would still believe in these principles.
There also remains a criticism that Substack is promoting these fringe voices. This criticism appears to stem from my decision to host Richard Hanania, who was later outed as having once published extreme and racist views, on my podcast, The Active Voice. I didn’t know of those past writings at the time, and Hanania went on to disavow those views. While it has been uncomfortable and I probably would have done things differently with all the information in front of me, I ultimately don’t regret having him on the podcast. I think it’s important to engage with and understand a range of views even if—especially if—you disagree with them. Hanania is an influential voice for some in U.S. politics—his recent book, for instance, was published by HarperCollins—and there is value in knowing his arguments. The same applies to all other guests I have hosted on The Active Voice, including Hanania’s political opposites.
We don’t expect everyone to agree with our approach and policies, and we believe it’s helpful for there to be continued robust debate of these issues. Six years into Substack, however, we have been encouraged by the quality of discourse on the platform. As Elle said in her letter: “We are still trying to figure out the best way to handle extremism on the internet. But of all the ways we’ve tried so far, Substack is working the best.”
Thanks for listening, and for caring, and thanks to everyone who publishes on Substack. We are here to serve you and will continue to do our very best in that mission.