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Platformer Ditches Substack Over Nazi Content Controversy

Tech journalist Casey Newton's popular newsletter, Platformer, is leaving Substack due to the platform's hands-off approach to hate speech and Nazi content. This move highlights the growing tensions between free speech and platform responsibility in the online world.

Image: Casey Newton

Table of Contents

The Platform and the Problem:

Casey Newton, a prominent tech reporter, has made a significant move: migrating his newsletter, Platformer, from Substack to Ghost. This decision stems from Substack's stance on content moderation, particularly its tolerance for Nazi-related content. Newton and his team discovered seven newsletters on Substack promoting Nazi ideology and spewing hate speech, prompting them to urge the platform to take action.

Substack's "Do-What-You-Want" Approach:

Substack, however, has remained firm in its commitment to minimal content moderation, citing freedom of speech as a core principle. This "do-what-you-want" policy clashed with Newton's ethical stance, leading him to conclude that Platformer's values were incompatible with Substack's platform.

Beyond Tech News: A Moral Stand:

This isn't just about tech news for Newton. It's about taking a stand against hate speech and intolerance. He refused to be associated with a platform that allows the unchecked spread of such harmful content.

Ghost: A New Home with Different Values:

Ghost, Newton's new platform of choice, presents a stark contrast to Substack. It focuses on providing tools and infrastructure for creators without actively promoting or monetizing content. This aligns with Newton's desire for a platform that facilitates independent expression without condoning harmful ideologies.

The Nazi Newsletter Problem and Substack's Image Crisis:

This incident isn't isolated. The Atlantic recently exposed Substack's hosting of at least 16 Nazi-fan newsletters, some of which even generate revenue. This has sparked outrage among writers and users, raising questions about Substack's responsibility in curbing hate speech on its platform.

Platformer's Success and the Moral Dilemma:

Newton's newsletter, with over 170,000 subscribers, thrived under Substack's support. However, he recognized the ethical conflict: the same resources that helped him also empowered those spreading hate. This ultimately led him to prioritize his values over convenience and financial incentives.

Beyond Substack: A Broader Conversation:

Newton's departure serves as a catalyst for a larger discussion about online platforms and their responsibility to combat hate speech. While freedom of speech is vital, it cannot be used as a shield for harmful ideologies. Platforms like Substack must find a way to balance free expression with the need to create a safe and inclusive online environment