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Substack removes Nazi newsletters for inciting violence

Its co-founders said that they removed them because they violated existing content policies, though did not say that they were changing their approach about hosting racist and antisemitic content.

The newsletter platform Substack. Credit: T. Schneider/Shutterstock.
The newsletter platform Substack. Credit: T. Schneider/Shutterstock.

The popular newsletter host Substack said on Monday that it intends to remove several neo-Nazi publications from its service.

The tech newsletter Platformer, which itself is on Substack, said on Jan. 4 that it had reported six newsletters to Substack’s management that it believed had Nazi content. Substack’s co-founders responded in a written statement on Monday and said five of those accounts violated their content guidelines related to incitement of violence and would be removed. They also said none of the accounts had paid subscribers and that the accounts in question had very few readers.

Substack’s laissez-faire approach to content moderation and the publication of racist content on their platform has been under criticism since The Atlantic published an essay in November titled “Substack Has a Nazi Problem.”

“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,” The Atlantic reported.

At least one of the Substack newsletters mentioned in that article, Andkon’s Reich Press, which billed itself as a “a National Socialist newsletter” has been deleted. Others, however, remain active, including Turning Point Stocks, which describes itself as writing about “the stock market and the Jewish question,” as well as the newsletter of Richard Spencer, the alt-right organizer of the white supremacist “Unite the Right” march in the summer of 2017 in Charlottesville, Va.

In their response to Platformer, Substack’s co-founders said that they removed the newsletters because they violated their existing content policies, though did not say that they were changing their approach to hosting racist and antisemitic content.

One of those founders, Hamish McKenzie, outlined Substack’s approach to Nazi content in December after more than 200 Substack writers signed an open letter titled “Substackers Against Nazis” and threatened to leave the platform unless their concerns were addressed.

“I just want to make it clear that we don’t like Nazis either—we wish no one held those views,” McKenzie wrote. “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.”

“Our content guidelines do have narrowly defined proscriptions, including a clause that prohibits incitements to violence,” he added. “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.”

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