Substack appears to flip-flop on free speech stance

The first five accounts purged

Substack is a “decentralized” platform for individuals to publish their essays, opinion pieces, and email newsletters. It has been known for supporting freedom of speech and having a hands-off approach to content moderation.

Last November, left-wing activists began a campaign to pressure Substack into purging certain accounts. The attacks focus on some tiny accounts that have allegedly used “Nazi symbols,” some of which are not symbols used by the Nazi party. Of course, this is always how it begins. Once the censorship door opens, the activists will progressively make greater demands. This is called salami slice tactics.

The activists also target some large accounts, such as Richard Hanania, who has published articles about crime statistics and race.

In late December, Substack’s CEO Hamish McKenzie declared that the accounts would not be banned.

“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.”

However, Substack has now deleted five accounts to appease the activists. CNN is crediting Casey Newton, a Substack writer with 173k subscribers. Newton threatened to leave the platform unless Substack changed its policies. He also appears to publish a large number of attack pieces on Elon Musk and Twitter.

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