Monday, March 15, 2021

About Substack and Platform Choices

I have not been unaware that some writers with some pretty bigoted views had found themselves a home at Substack.  I had many justifications.  I had watched the whole Patreon fallout as Patreon first actively recruited folks that were active in sex work, were LGBTQ and such, then then a bit later, changed their terms because some funding sites are very unhappy about such things.  
I have heard about the toxic environment at Mailchimp.  None of this is a justification for Substack, it just made it easy to be like, well there are terrible people everywhere.  Terrible people use sidewalks too, I'm not going to stop using sidewalks.   
Substack did a free virtual conference, provided mentorships, and did some things that made me feel fond of them. 
They also sent out a whole thing about how they didn't really moderate content because everyone was opting in. It wasn't like other things where the algorithm forced you to see things.  No one got anything they hadn't clicked on, and if they didn't like something they could unclick, unsubscribe, and all was well.  It is true, but wishy washy.  Patreon recently had to kick off someone who was posting videos of criminal behavior.  These things are going to happen, and if your response is going to be, well, these people are all demonstrating interest in bad behavior, I am not satisfied.  There needs to be a plan.  Preferably before it's needed.  
And then it was revealed that there was another program - Substack Pro.  Those people Substack was basically paying an advance on to cover them growing their audience on Substack for a year.  They say they didn't announce participants because the idea wasn't for these people to be brand ambassadors, just to go off and do their thing.  Except of course, it isn't that simple.  If a Pro writer is using their Substack to espouse terrible bigoted beliefs, then Substack is profiting off of bigotry. There is a difference between we provide a platform that anyone can use, and we have chosen to bankroll certain members of that platform.   If a Pro writer is using their Substack to harass a colleague they dislike, then Substack is finding that harassment.  (Jude Ellison Doyle has some further thoughts on Substack here.)
So now Substack being like, oh we don't want to tell you who the other writers are seems less like oh we're trying not to make them advertisers, and more like - we picked people with a wide range of views and we like both the bigots and the social justice folks all chipping in, but if they find out they are all here, one or both sets might leave.  
Given pandemic brain and such, I am not currently going to move my posts off Substack.  I am suspending all paid subscriptions, because my reader's money is not going to fund this. 
I have already expressed to Substack that I think the very least they owe us, is full disclosure of who is a Pro member. If they comply, I may take further action, but I will not reactivate subscriptions during the LTAFS series at all.  So all posts for that will just be free.  

Edited to note, the newsletter is moving to a new platform. The posts will still be free, I'll update the links as the archive becomes available.