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Substack Supports Free Speech

By Lulu Cheng Meservey, VP Comms at Substack @lulumeservey


Substack has recently come under attack for allowing writers on its platform that subscribe to alternative views from the mainstream. Or views that the mainstream has labeled as misinformation. In response the VP of Communication at SUbstack, Lulu Cheng Meservey stated,


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 understand principles come at a cost. I’m proud of our decision to defend free expression, even when it’s hard, because: 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. People already mistrust institutions, media, and each other. Knowing that dissenting views are being suppressed makes that mistrust worse. Withstanding scrutiny makes truths stronger, not weaker. We made a promise to writers that this is a place they can pursue what they find meaningful, without coddling or controlling. We promised we wouldn’t come between them and their audiences. And we intend to keep our side of the agreement for every writer that keeps theirs. I respect that writers on Substack are people who like to think for themselves. They tend not to be conformists, and they have the confidence and strength of conviction not to be threatened by views that disagree with them or even disgust them. This is becoming increasingly rare. Who should be the arbiter of what’s true and good and right? People should be allowed to decide for themselves, not have a tech executive decide for them. I wouldn’t want someone to pick out my clothes for me, much less my ideas. The only area where we humans have a perfect track record is that we’ve consistently gotten things wrong. Every generation has beliefs and blind spots that make future generations aghast. It would be the height of arrogance to think we’ve suddenly become infallible now. If everyone who has ever been wrong about this pandemic were silenced, there would be no one left talking about it at all. When it comes to bad ideas, it’s neither right nor smart to martyr them and drive them into dark corners where they’re safe from examination and questioning. That doesn’t work. What works is examination and mockery (like using the Riddikulus charm against a Boggart). I read things on Substack all the time that I personally disagree with. Open debate is not always comfortable. But neither, for that matter, is the sea. Our cofounders just shared a post on why and how Substack aims to rebuild trust in the media ecosystem. TL;DR: “we make decisions based on principles, not PR, we will defend free expression, and we will stick to our hands-off approach to content moderation”

In response to the backlash to the backlash to her statement, Lulu Cheng Meservey commented,


I’m not new to the internet but I was still surprised by the heat of the reactions. These arguments seemed fairly uncontroversial to me.