Building a system that puts readers and writers in charge
I don’t understand how you write about the importance of free speech and then say you don’t allow “porn” without defining it or explaining that decision.
First off, you aren’t protecting free speech if you’re censoring sex. But second, this leaves content creators who address sex in an uncertain, precarious position. What counts as porn? Who decides when that line is crossed? What happens to the creator when it’s crossed?
You’re a private company and you have every right to censor content you deem pornographic. But don’t pretend to be principled defenders of free speech if you’re going to censor sexual expression.
A breath of fresh air.
Thank you for bucking the trend.
This is an awesome read. I'm really pleased to see more and more people speaking out against censorship and cancel culture. Hopefully as more writers come to Substack to gain control of their content rights, the overall price of a subscription will go down. Then the value of the content will go up, and we can further form Substack into a stronger decentralized media platform. This is the way. Legacy social media is something one has to conform to for a long while. New social media like Substack offer a platform to build on. I'm looking forward to seeing more features implemented.
Impressive and bold statement, but if we're all to be honest the real test of things will probably not be with Substack, but with the payment processors when someone significantly odious enough (to the external censors) is deemed unworthy of a platform.
Our Substack site when live today: speakupmag.com. It is a voice for those without: homeless, addicted, incarcerated.
This post is incredibly reassuring and appreciated. Thank you for standing for free speech and expression, even when it is uncomfortable.
I think we'll be here for a long time.
This is the correct way to think - and I think it prevents a slippery slope from happening at Substack. Thank you for laying this all out. Respect you so much more for doing so. Readers will censor out the writers that are unacceptable by not reading their writing. Eventually, if no one is reading it, the writers stop. This is how it should work.
Quote (and the right way to handle this):
Ultimately, we think the best content moderators are the people who control the communities on Substack: the writers themselves. On our platform, each publication is its own dominion, with readers and commenters who have gathered there through common interests. And readers, in turn, choose which writers to subscribe to and which communities to participate in. As the meta platform, we cannot presume to understand the particularities of any given community or to know what’s best for it.
I already comments about how this post is a breathe of fresh air, but I also want to say that if you really want to put content creators in charge, you need to support another video platform other than YouTube or Vimeo. YouTube is going absolutely nuts with censoring people and I don't want to support them anymore. Vimeo is not really set up as a platform that you want to send people to. Consider LBRY or Brighteon, or such. Don't force us to use YouTube please!
Everything about this manifesto is amazing! Both as a paying subscriber and content creator, I feel strongly about your philosophy. Keep fighting the good fight, and keep building great things!
It was refreshing to read this. When I read the subject line I rolled my eyes and thought “here we go again” but was pleasantly surprised. Let’s hope you can stay the course (please do)! And please promote/award grants/fellowships to writers of myriad perspectives on our culture’s most difficult issues.
Appreciate the thoughtfulness, both in how you view the media business and how you craft the product. A balanced position, and I hope that you are able to manage it. I share your view of the future of media, and hope you can see it through.
Completely agree. It starts with the business model. Even the overall positivity of this comment section proves that Substack is doing it right.
Love this philosophy.
The test of all those high-blown words will come the minute the "progressives" decide you are "phobic." And since you've proclaimed yourselves to be liberal yourselves, I think we can reasonably assume that Substack will hop on board the Cancel Train, with plenty of mush-mouth excuses. Or maybe not, but I will not be holding my breath waiting for Substack to fight for freedom of thought.
Just yesterday I was reflecting on what exactly was so 'distasteful' about FB and IG in particular. This has been a conversation among my clients. I had come around to the fact that the values and the beliefs expressed through the actions and presentation of those companies and their apps are not ones I align with. Facebook shows what's important through it's tool/app.
Substacks values and ethics seeped through. Before I read this I had a strong sense. But after reading, I'm overjoyed. This is the type of company I want to affiliate with. One, because the values you share I align with. BUT also because you actually shared and clarified your values and beliefs.
That's important. What we stand for matters. Thank you.
I have been writing the weekly Friday Letter newsletter since January 2009. Until recently we were distributed by MailChimp, which cancelled us last month because we did not meet its content standards -- what those violation are MailChimp did not say. It is not difficult to figure out, as we write on constitutional conservatism. But we don't ridicule people for their appearance, certainly not their race, and we don't use vulgarity in outlining our political differences with people. I have been a reporter and editor for a very long time, going back to the Greenfield Daily Reporter in Indiana in the 1970s, and I have never been sued for libel or sanctioned. I mention this because of the gratitude my video production partners and I have for Substack. Our numbers are still very small, but last week we had 784 views, vastly more than in any week before we joined. We're going to stay free for a while, but I am motivated by the message above from Chris, Hamish, and Jairaj to start making this thing happen financially. Writing is fun, but getting paid to write is more fun, and I have experienced that in both peer-reviewed academic writing and in published journalism. I regret not having the source of this, but a well-known writer gives this advice: write for love, write for pleasure, but always for money.
Thank you for putting this out there. Activists from all corners might come for you, but writers will settle in because of this announcement. I have known about Substack for a year and held off making it my primary platform because I wanted to see where it stood on free speech.
Substack's revenue model rewards writers for trusting them: help us grow, and we become happy to share the revenue. But if writers grow, and then start getting policed for their expression, Substack will have helped them grow an audience only to see them leave for an alternative platform, and miss out on the profit sharing. So Substack has skin in the game to stand by their announcement!
This month I started setting up on Substack, but my posts so far are in draft mode and I had not yet announced to my content marketing newsletter that we have a new home. I guess I was waiting to see proof that I can trust Substack to be a "forever" home for my content.
I am relieved to see this post. I'll be bringing my audience across. Cheers team!