Substack CEO grilled by Nilay Patel on the topic of explicitly racist content

Feel like a distinction needs to be made between sites that just host content and those that host content and use that content in feeds. If you use the content to get more viewership you should also be responsible for what all the content says.


It does seem like the rise of Mastadon and thus more attention on ActivityPub should give us an improved public framework for discussing what is and is not a tool. With something like ActivityPub to point to as closer to a platonic ideal of what a tool is, it should be clear that something like Substack (Facebook, Twitter) is not a tool.

Once you build a branded community, are regularly taking a percentage of users subscription fees, building advertiser spaces, curating content, making recommendations, etc… (any single one of these will do) you are using a tool in a purposeful way, not offering one. Even if you built that tool yourself to use and use it to elicit action from others, you’re still using that tool to build your community.

Mastadon servers are not tools for their users to use, they are an expression, a use of a tool to build a community. Their actions aren’t agnostic either. Ironically, this point seems to be mire explicitly stated and more easily grokkable for most people, including media heads, in a way that isn’t for corporate social media sites.

And of course, tools themselves aren’t free of intent based on their design (i.e. guns) but it would be nice to have our apples and orange at least in the right buckets.


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