My last Substack post
A note on why I am switching platforms and what it means for you.
Some of you may have heard about how and why Substack (the company that hosts and powers my newsletter) is not cracking down on creators who promote white supremacy, antisemitism and neo-nazism. A little while ago The Atlantic had a piece about how many sites like that it had found on the platform.
Substack, founded in 2017, has terms of service that formally proscribe “hate,” along with pornography, spam, and anyone “restricted from making money on Substack”—a category that includes businesses banned by Stripe, the platform’s default payment processor. But Substack’s leaders also proudly disdain the content-moderation methods that other platforms employ, albeit with spotty results, to limit the spread of racist or bigoted speech. An informal search of the Substack website and of extremist Telegram channels that circulate Substack posts turns up scores of white-supremacist, neo-Confederate, and explicitly Nazi newsletters on Substack—many of them apparently started in the past year.
On December 22 the New York Times ran a follow-up article that made it clear this was no accident.
Under pressure from critics who say Substack is profiting from newsletters that promote hate speech and racism, the company’s founders said Thursday that they would not ban Nazi symbols and extremist rhetoric from the platform.
“I just want to make it clear that we don’t like Nazis either — we wish no one held those views,” Hamish McKenzie, a co-founder of Substack, said in a statement. “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.”
I have a big problem with that.
Legally speaking, Substack is within its rights. It’s an American company and hate-speech laws in the United States are laughably weak (they’re not brilliant in Canada either, don’t be so quick to smirk).
I’m just one writer and policing the internet is not my role. But Substack keeps a percentage of the income I get from my paid subscribers. That’s where I draw a big fat red line.
My readers are not here to contribute financially to a company that benefits from hateful, antisemitic, racist and nazi content, even if it’s pennies on the dollar. I also cannot accept that some of the income I generate through my work goes to reward a company that benefits financially from this kind of content.
In the next few days I will be switching platforms to Ghost, a non-profit and independent platform. Ghost is a flat-fee platform, meaning that I am paying a fee to host my content on their website instead of giving them a cut of my earnings. Their profits are reinvested in independent publishing, which feels good to me.
This switch should not affect you, except that the look and feel or my emails will be different, as I play around with various themes, colour schemes and layouts. I welcome your feedback on this and anything else, as usual.
For paid subscribers: You will get a notice from Substack to say that I am no longer taking payments on that platform. You can safely ignore that. The third-party payment processing partner remains the same (Stripe) and your account is securely migrated over along with everything else. The transition should be seamless, by which I mean there is nothing for you to do.
It’s unlikely, but sometimes the gods of internet payment processing have a mind of their own, especially at holiday times when the humans are scarce; some of you who have payments scheduled this week could potentially be charged twice — once via Substack and once via Ghost. I am keeping an eye on this for you and should it happen I will initiate a refund. If I somehow miss it, do please get in touch so I can straighten it out for you. I’m at email@example.com.
Thank you as always for your support.