Substack’s no-platforming climbdown isn’t ‘censorship,’ but it’s still a bad idea

Feb 5, 2024 | Political News

In January of 2022, Lulu Cheng-Meservey — at the time, vice president of Communication for Substack, though she’s since moved on to a similar role at Activision Blizzard — wrote on Twitter (now known as “X”):

“At Substack, we don’t make moderation decisions based on public pressure or PR considerations. An important principle for us is defending free expression, even for stuff we personally dislike or disagree with. … We want a thriving ecosystem full of fresh and diverse ideas. That can’t happen without the freedom to experiment, or even to be wrong.”

Not quite a year later, Substack finds itself losing writers, and likely bleeding revenue, in a “can’t win for losing” scenario.

In November, The Atlantic alleged the existence of “scores of white-supremacist, neo-Confederate, and explicitly Nazi newsletters” on the Substack platform.

Since then, Substack has gone from defending Ms. Cheng-Meservey’s position to taking action against such content based on the “hate speech” prohibitions in its terms of service, in the process pleasing virtually no one.