It’s official: Disconnect has moved to Ghost! The Substack days are behind us — and not a moment too soon.
Once this whole Substack Nazi controversy kicked off, it quickly became clear to me that my time on the platform was up, but it’s been incredible to see the degree of incompetence among Substack’s leadership team and their ideological commitment to the right-wing conception of free speech they’ve adopted as a guiding principle.
Last week Platformer sent Substack a list of Nazi and far-right publications to see what they would do when presented with clear examples of the type of content they were not only platforming, but monetizing and spreading through their Notes feature and email recommendations. In response, Substack said it was not changing its content policy, which “will not include proactively removing content related to neo-Nazis and far-right extremism.”
In response to Platformer’s submission, Substack removed 5 Nazi newsletters that were not monetized and had about 100 cumulative readers. As I told the Washington Post, this was nothing more than a PR move to try to get people who weren’t paying much attention to move on. But it seems to have epically backfired.
The reality here is that Substack leadership has made the calculation that their bread is buttered by conservative and right-wing forces and they cannot risk pissing them off, even if it means an exodus by those who rightfully and correctly see Nazis and fascists as abhorrent and having no right to post openly on popular platforms. Obviously, there are notable bigots on Substack with massive (paying) subscriber bases, but the company is also financially backed by venture capitalists who are themselves radicalizing and openly championing similar ideals to those defended by Substack’s leaders, like Marc Andreessen of a16z, which led Substack's March 2021 funding round.
Substack has already been cagey about how much money it’s actually making, and had to turn to individuals instead of traditional investors to raise financing last year. More controversy and a further exodus of writers and subscribers surely won’t be great for driving growth, but it could at least keep the funders onside.
The business side of Substack is not something I’ll have to personally worry about too much anymore though now that the ties between us are officially cut. Let’s hope the Ghost ship sails a little more smoothly.
Making the transition
Now that the transition is done, I have to be honest: I’m so happy it’s behind me and I hope never to have to do it again.
There have been many times over the past week where I wanted to tear my hair out in frustration between the sub-optimal content export I got from Substack which required me to manually go through to fix up every post, the unclear instructions for parts of the migration process, and some misunderstandings with Ghost support (who, to be clear, were on the whole incredibly helpful).
Moving to Ghost sort of reminds me of the old Wordpress days of running into random quirks, except in those days I had the time and interest to figure out what was going on, and today I really do not at all! With that said though, I’m still happy to have made the switch and I’m excited about what this new phase of Disconnect will bring!
What you need to know
If you were already a subscriber to Disconnect, you don’t have to do anything. Whether you get the free version or have upgraded to a paid subscription, that’s all transferred over seamlessly because both Substack and Ghost use Stripe for payment processing. When you visit the new website, you don’t need to sign up — just hit the Sign In button, put in the email address you signed up with, and you should get an email allowing you to log in and manage your account.
If, for some reason, you have trouble with any of that, please do get in touch so I can fix it.
Disconnect relies on the support of readers like you to allow me to do this independent critical analysis of the tech industry and its depraved billionaires, so if you enjoy it I’d ask you to consider upgrading to a paid subscription (if you haven’t already). Since we don’t have the Substack recommendation engine pushing us to its users anymore, your word of mouth will be more important than ever. So if you read a great article, don’t hesitate to share it and suggest your friend or colleague sign up.
Now that the migration is finally complete, we’ll be going back to a more regular publishing schedule. Expect a roundup on Sunday, then we’ll get back to the analysis next week.
Thanks again for supporting my work!