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The CEO of Substack wants writers to publish whatever they want



Substack has taken advantage of a new model for the internet, in which content subscriptions are increasingly becoming the norm rather than the exception. The website is the current king of paid newsletters, as writers can publish directly to subscribers without having to adhere to the editorial standards of traditional newsrooms.


However, as social media platforms struggle to monitor misinformation, Facebook CEO Chris Best reiterated the company's policy of taking a hands-off approach to content moderation.


In an interview with Brian Stelter on "Reliable Sources" on Sunday, Best said, "I think the magical piece is that the readers and writers are in charge, and you have this direct paid relationship."


Substack has attracted a slew of high-profile writers, including former New York Times op-ed columnist Bari Weiss and "Top Chef" host Padma Lakshmi, who has written for the publication. However, it has also attracted a number of controversial figures who might not otherwise have found a platform online. Alex Berenson, a former New York Times writer who is an outspoken opponent of vaccines and coronaviruses, has more than 10,000 paying subscribers on Substack.


Earlier this year, the platform was criticized for allowing anti-transgender content, which resulted in some writers abandoning the platform.


According to Best, "I do believe that there are some people who thrive on Substack who found it difficult to thrive in traditional media."


He reaffirmed the site's commitment to a free press and the importance of the relationship between the writer and the subscriber — even if the writer publishes inaccurate information.


According to Best, "if I want to sign up for your emails and you want to send me those emails, that should be allowed because it is between you and me."


The company must first achieve a "high, high bar" before intervening in content, he continued, and an information ecosystem in which subscribers can debate opposing viewpoints is essential, he said. Best believes that "that's something that's become a little bit unfashionable."


According to him, blocking content will not put an end to disinformation. He describes Substack as a "thoughtful" place where "great stuff is rewarded." However, he went on to say that it is not the platform's responsibility to determine what is true and what is not, or what is politically acceptable to publish — or not.


In contrast, he criticized Twitter (TWTR) and Facebook (FB) for prioritizing cheap engagement over all other considerations, which he considered to be a mistake. Users will be forced to scroll through toxic content, which Best defines as "things that push people's buttons, things that make people anxious and afraid, things that make people hate each other," he said.


Facebook itself is capitalizing on the newsletter craze, having launched a similar service called "Bulletin" in late June to capitalize on the trend. In addition to local news reporters, the platform courted influential writers who were interested in going independent.

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