Nazis on Substack
In November 2023, Jonathan M. Katz wrote in The Atlantic about Substack’s Nazi problem. He argued that the platform has become a home to white supremacy and anti-Semitism, and that the platform profits from this activity. Following the publication of the Atlantic article, more than 200 writers on Substack signed an open letter to the company asking them why they are platforming and monetizing Nazis (Substackers against Nazis).
Here at Insight Monitor, we are anti-Nazi. (Apparently this needs to be said in 2024.) But we are also pro-inquiry, and wanted to know exactly what Substack’s Nazi problem might look like, how much money Nazis might be making from their newsletters, and how Substack itself is profiting from this content. Basically: we wanted to qualify and quantify this problem in order to provide evidence for policy recommendations.
For those of you who aren’t subscribers, here’s the TL;DR:
Nazis on Substack might make millions of dollars per year, with some creators making hundreds of thousands of dollars
Substack itself probably makes hundreds of thousands of dollars per year on Nazi content
Substack’s algorithm creates a network of Nazi substacks by recommending similar content
We should not give Nazis money: Substack should demonetize and de-prioritize these newsletters (at the very least)
States should consider legislation and regulations against the monetization of hateful content (ideally platforms do this themselves…)
Yesterday (8 January 2023), Substack announced that it would be removing Nazi publications from the platform. This is not a new policy — but rather a reconsideration of how it considers existing policies. The removals only apply to “credible threats of harm”. The application of the policy applies to five publications, and none of the publications removed had paid subscriptions enabled, and they accounted for about 100 active readers.
This does not address the problem. Our dataset of Nazi content identified 75 publications with over a 100,000 readers, a significant proportion of which were monetized.
Subscribe to read more about how we came to these conclusions and our evidence-base: