Alternative Channels, Superstar Writers, and Content Filtering

February 7, 2024

green-dino_thumb_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb dinobaby. No smart software required.

In this post-Twitter world, a duel of influencers is playing out in the blogosphere. At issue: Substack’s alleged Nazi problem. The kerfuffle began with a piece in The Atlantic by Jonathan M. Katz, but has evolved into a debate between Platformer’s Casey Newton and Jesse Singal of Singal-Minded. Both those blogs are hosted by Substack.

To get up to speed on the controversy, see the original Atlantic article. Newton wrote a couple posts about Substack’s responses and detailing Platformer’s involvement. In “Substack Says It Will Remove Nazi Publications from the Platform,” he writes:

“Substack is removing some publications that express support for Nazis, the company said today. The company said this did not represent a reversal of its previous stance, but rather the result of reconsidering how it interprets its existing policies. As part of the move, the company is also terminating the accounts of several publications that endorse Nazi ideology and that Platformer flagged to the company for review last week.”

How many publications did Platformer flag, and how many of those did Substack remove? Were they significant publications, and did they really violate the rules? These are the burning questions Singal sought to answer. He shares his account in, “Platformer’s Reporting on Substack’s Supposed ‘Nazi Problem’ Is Shoddy and Misleading.” But first, he specifies his own perspective on Katz’ Atlantic article:

“In my view, this whole thing is little more than a moral panic. Moreover, Katz cut certain corners to obscure the fact that to the extent there are Nazis on Substack at all, it appears they have almost no following or influence, and make almost no money. In one case, for example, Katz falsely claimed that a white nationalist was making a comfortable living writing on Substack, but even the most cursory bit of research would have revealed that that is completely false.”

Singal says he plans a detailed article supporting that assertion, but first he must pick apart Platformer’s position. Readers are treated to details from an email exchange between the bloggers and reasons Singal feels Newton’s responses are inadequate. One can navigate to that post for those details if one wants to get into the weeds. As of this writing, Newton has not published a response to Singal’s diatribe. Were we better off when such duels took place 280 characters at a time?

One positive about newspapers: An established editorial process kept superstars grounded in reality. Now entitlement, more than content, seems to be in the driver’s seat.

Cynthia Murrell, February 7, 2024


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