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Substack is going to remove five Nazi newsletters

Substack is going to remove five Nazi newsletters

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Substack isn’t changing its policies, but a reinterpretation will mean the removal of some content — is that enough to end the backlash?

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An illustration of Substack’s logo.
Illustration by The Verge

Just a couple of weeks after Substack co-founder Hamish McKenzie defended the company’s decision to continue allowing Nazi content, Platformer reports that Substack will now remove “some” publications that express support for Nazis.

McKenzie’s December post was responding to a letter from over 200 Substack authors who cited, among other things, a recent report in The Atlantic that pointed out over a dozen newsletters with overt Nazi imagery, as well as many more with evidence of extremist views. Some newsletters have left Substack over the last couple of weeks for other platforms like Ghost or Beehiiv, and Platformer notes that it has seen many paying customers quit, saying they do not want to contribute to a platform that they see as supporting extremism.

Contacted by The Verge, Substack downplayed the situation in a statement signed by co-founders Chris, Hamish, and Jairaj, saying it would remove five publications that “do indeed violate our existing content guidelines, which prohibit incitements to violence based on protected classes.” According to the letter, none of the publications removed had paid subscriptions enabled and accounted for “about 100 active readers in total.”

Platformer reports that Substack says its policy still is not changing but that some additional moderation actions will be taken as “the result of reconsidering how it interprets its existing policies.” That reconsideration does not mean “proactively” removing Nazi-related content, which the company says represents a small fraction of the many thousands of newsletters on its platform. A statement is included from Substack’s co-founders saying, “If and when we become aware of other content that violates our guidelines, we will take appropriate action.”

Substack’s hands-off approach to moderation does have its supporters. As noted by Platformer, another open letter from Substack writer Elle Griffin and signed by over a hundred other Substack authors backed the company’s existing “decentralized” approach to moderation, which does not allow content it deems as spam, or written by sex workers, but does allow Nazis.

The Verge has contacted Substack for more details on what publications may be removed, why, and for other details on the newly reinterpreted policy.