Antisemitism, False Information, and Hate Speech Find a Home on Substack

In November of 2022, Substack introduced the “bestseller badge” for accounts with a high enough number of paid subscribers, indicating what Substack refers to as a “top-performing writer.” Bestseller account holders may choose how and where they display their badge, which shows up as a checkmark icon. Each badge color represents different increments of paid subscribers: Purple for “tens of thousands,” orange for “thousands” and white for “hundreds.”

Substack does not display lists or names of subscribers to the public. However, a rounded number of general subscribers, as well as paid subscribers where applicable, appears on the initial landing page of each account.

Accounts Promote Extremist Rhetoric, Hate Speech and False Information
In early 2022, research organizations and media outlets including the Washington Post wrote about the presence of problematic content on Substack, noting its use by spreaders of false information and reporting that the platform has made “millions of dollars off anti-vaccine misinformation.” Today, a wide range of conspiratorial narratives and extremist tropes remain on the platform, and many of the accounts responsible for spreading such rhetoric are labeled as bestsellers – an indication that both the authors and Substack are benefiting financially from this content.

For the purposes of this report, the estimated monthly profits listed below are based on the lowest possible paid subscriber count and the lowest possible paid subscriber fee, minus the percentage collected by Substack and their credit card processor. These estimates are not included for authors whose paid subscriber count is not listed publicly.

The following examples highlight Substack accounts whose articles contain extremist rhetoric, hate speech, harmful conspiracy theories and misleading information.

Calvin’s Common Sense Crusade
4,000 + Subscribers

Calvin Robinson, a British deacon and conservative commentator, writes frequently on his Substack about what he finds problematic in “liberalism,” including gay marriage and being transgender. In one article, he rejects the existence of trans people, and calls on his readers to do the same. “People cannot be ‘trans’ gender, race or age,” he writes, adding that “the natural conclusion [of a society that accepts trans people] is paedophilia.” He goes on to challenge readers to “stop conceding ground” to the “delusion” of transgenderism. 

Decode The World
A Substack called “Decode the World” by Chris Kitze claims to help readers understand the “Signs and Symbols that Rule the World.” The articles discuss the supposed secret gestures and codes used by figures such as Anthony Fauci and Volodymyr Zelenskyy to signal their affiliation with an evil “cult” of world leaders. Kitze also uses anti-LGBTQ+ tropes to suggest that being transgender implies a connection to the occult, and that “the world is being flooded” by the “perversion” of the LGBTQ+ community.

In another article, Kitze claims that entities like the World Economic Forum (WEF), the Biden administration and Ukraine’s political leaders have deliberately orchestrated the war in Ukraine in order to create “Greater Israel,” calling the initiative “the re-creation of ancient Khazaria, a foothold in Europe for a Jewish state.” Antisemitic conspiracy theories about Ukraine have circulated since Russia first invaded the country in late February of 2022.

Josh’s Research Archive
A Substack author who simply goes by “Josh” mainly publishes articles espousing false information and conspiracy theories about Jews. One article is titled, “FAKE ANTI-SEMITISM IN THE USSR CREATED BY JEWS TO CONCEAL THE FACT OF JEWISH DOMINATION.” Another article depicts Jews as deceitful and manipulative by nature, stating that “disguises of the shapeshifters are quintessentially Talmudic” and that Jews are taught to disguise themselves when planning “to do evil against gentiles”.

Notably, the name of this account is “Josh’s Research Archive,” and the subhead reads “JQ information archive.” Given the deeply antisemitic content of the articles, it is likely that “JQ” stands for “Jewish Question.” In Nazi Germany, the proposed “final solution” to the so-called “Jewish Question” was the mass extermination of Jews.

Kevin’s Newsletter
4,000+ Subscribers
Hundreds of Paid Subscribers
Minimum Monthly Profits: $579
“Kevin’s Newsletter” is a Substack run by the antisemitic and anti-Zionist conspiracy theorist Kevin Barrett, who has blamed Jews and Israel for the creation of ISIS, the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 and more. In an article published November of 2022, Barrett alleges that “Jewish power” is the result of “the disproportionate presence of Jews in powerful positions in media, politics, and finance.” Later, he makes a series of anti-Zionist statements, referring to “Israel’s transformation into an admittedly genocidal entity.”

In another article, Barrett suggests that people who have a “Jewish handler” are at risk of “being institutionalized and injected,” referring to Ye’s conspiratorial rants about his former personal trainer, Harley Pasternak.

Libs of TikTok
131,000+ Subscribers  
Thousands of Paid Subscribers
Minimum Monthly Profits: $4,055

Also known as Libs of TikTok, Chaya Raichik has gained a large following on social media due to her repeated demonization of the LGBTQ+ community and promotion of the unfounded “groomer” narrative, which she has discussed with prominent conservative media pundits like Tucker Carlson.

Besides Twitter, Raichik relies on Substack as an additional venue to spread misleading and hateful rhetoric against drag queens, trans individuals and experts who specialize in gender transition. After receiving a temporary suspension from Twitter in August of 2022, Raichik took to Substack to defend herself while doubling down on what got her penalized in the first place: The false claim that Boston Children’s Hospital was performing hysterectomies on minors seeking gender-affirming care. Significantly, Substack did not suspend her for these claims.

Raichik also regularly uses the platform to target teachers and doctors who support LGBTQ+ rights. This phenomenon often results in harassment.

Red-State Secession
On a Substack called “Red-State Secession,” the author proposes a strategy to preserve white populations and sovereignty: Segregation, by splitting the country in half by political ideology. In one article, the author claims, “Our children will eventually be persecuted for their whiteness by the majority unless we split the US and create a federation of red states that’s safe for all races.” 

This article also frames interracial couples as contributors to the alleged shrinking of the white race, saying “Immigration is to blame, but we shouldn’t blame all of this on immigration. Mixed marriages are reducing the percentage of US children who are ‘white.’”

Restoring Order
Known extremist Patrick Casey, who led the former white supremacist/alt-right group American Identity Movement (AIM), has written on Substack about his concerns for the future of white children in America: “I am fighting to ensure that my future children do not find themselves hated minorities. As such, there is no win scenario for me in which white people end up as hated minorities in the West.” Unsurprisingly, this sentiment is highly reminiscent of the white supremacist slogan, the 14 Words.

Turning Point Stocks
The landing page for the Substack account called “Turning Point Stocks” by Edward Reid references “the Jewish Question,” and the description on the author’s profile reads, “Jews are parasites and niggers are leeches.”

In his articles, Reid’s rhetoric includes antisemitic, racist and anti-immigrant sentiments, stoking fear about the future of the “White native” in America, which Reid claims is run by the Jews. Another article states that “the jews control hollywood [sic], commercials, media, music etc.” Several articles also use anti-LGBTQ+ slurs.

Clandestine’s Newsletter
47,000+ Subscribers
Thousands of Paid Subscribers
Minimum Monthly Profits: $4,055 

Jacob Creech a.k.a. Clandestine, known for promoting debunked disinformation about U.S. biolabs in Ukraine, writes on Substack about QAnon and other far-right conspiracy theories to push back against the so-called “mainstream media” narrative.

His content includes an article on how to indoctrinate people by way of “red pilling” – a term typically used by the far-right to describe the phenomenon of “awakening” the masses to “the truth.” This is often conspiratorial and may include antisemitic and racist tropes.

While Creech doesn’t recommend using QAnon specifically as an effective initial “red pill,” he does suggest using it “as a tool to find real-world proof to show irregularities in the mainstream narrative(s).” This guidance is concerning, as it borrows from tactics used by extremist groups to radicalize prospective members into dangerous ideologies which glorify violence.

Culturcidal by John Hawkins
26,000+ Subscribers
John Hawkins uses his Substack “Culturcidal” to push a range of unfounded narratives, some of which align strongly with the Great Replacement Theory – a conspiracy theory alleging that white people are being systematically replaced by non-white immigrants. Some proponents argue that this deliberate “replacement” is being orchestrated by the Jews. Notably, the Great Replacement theory was a key motivator for mass shooter Peyton Gendron, who shot 13 people in a Buffalo, NY grocery store in May of 2022, killing 10.

In one of Hawkins’ articles titled “The Left’s Great Replacement Theory Gaslighting,” he argues that “There is clearly, undeniably, unambiguously a ‘great replacement’ happening in the United States.” While he attempts to distance himself from the overtly racist implications of that claim, he posits that liberal politicians “intentionally set out to change the racial composition” of Americans – “by replacing the white population with minorities that were more likely to vote for them.” This is the same iteration of replacement theory that’s been promoted by television personality Tucker Carlson and other right-wing figures.

Dr. Mercola’s Censored Library
285,000+ Subscribers
Tens of Thousands of Paid Subscribers
Minimum Monthly Profits: $40,550
Referred to by the New York Times as “The Most Influential Spreader of Coronavirus Misinformation Online,” Dr. Joseph Mercola is infamous for sharing unfounded claims and misleading information about COVID-19 and vaccines. However, Mercola has also written on Substack about conspiracy theories involving government agencies and election interference, stating in one article that the FBI “actively interfered in multiple elections” while pushing claims about unlawful censorship and big tech collusion with the government.

Jordan’s Newsletter
27,000+ Subscribers
Hundreds of Paid Subscribers
Minimum Monthly Profits: $405.50

Social media influencer and QAnon promoter Jordan Sather has built a following on Substack by writing about far-right conspiracy theories, discussing everything from the Great Awakening to QAnon to the presence of “pedo-Satanism” in Hollywood.

In one article titled “Another Day, Another False Flag Shooting (Uvalde, TX),” Sather attempts to prove that the tragic mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas – which resulted in the death of 19 students and two adults at Robb Elementary School – was a government orchestrated false flag operation to promote gun control laws. He cites various forms of “evidence” to support his claim, such as a freemason sticker being spotted on a car in the background of a news report from that day. Freemasons are frequent targets of conspiracy theorists, and the discourse often overlaps with antisemitic tropes.

Kanekoa News
56,000+ Subscribers
Thousands of Paid Subscribers
Minimum Monthly Profits: $4,055

Kanekoa the Great (or just Kanekoa), who regularly promotes his Substack on Twitter and Telegram, writes articles pushing repeatedly debunked conspiracy theories and false claims about election fraud such as ballot harvesting, drop box stuffing, big tech interference and more. In one article, Kanekoa states that Biden’s presidential win in 2020 was the result of “an organized criminal ballot trafficking ring that took advantage of Zuckerberg’s drop boxes.” In another, he alleges “widespread fraud in Wisconsin’s 2020 presidential election which was decided by 20,682 votes.”

MindWar: The Psychological War on Democracy
4,000+ Subscribers
Hundreds of Paid Subscribers
Minimum Monthly Profits: $579.70
Jim Stewartson is a left-wing Substack author and self-proclaimed “anti-disinformation activist” whose articles primarily focus on proving who was behind QAnon, which he alleges was a Russian psychological operation coordinated in part with General Michael Flynn. The ADL Center on Extremism has found no evidence to support this claim.

Stewartson frequently dedicates a number of articles to targeting established journalists and experts in the extremism research field, calling them “controlled opposition” and accusing them – without evidence – of protecting “QAnon, Mike Flynn and the Russians.”

Stewartson’s former deradicalization initiative “The Thinkin Project,” which was established to help pull QAnon followers out of the conspiratorial rabbit hole, failed to gain traction, and is said to have “succeeded mostly in attacking and alienating journalists and QAnon researchers.” He was also banned from Twitter for breaking the terms of service in 2022 and was reinstated in 2023.

Pepe’s Fren Zone
15,000+ Subscribers
Hundreds of Paid Subscribers
Minimum Monthly Profits: $405.50

The “Pepe’s Fren Zone” Substack, written by the popular QAnon influencer Pepe Lives Matter, incorporates a common alt-right dogwhistle into its brand and uses QAnon tropes to push conspiracy theories about Hillary Clinton, George Soros and more while promising a triumphant future for the far-right. One article reads, “Q said that crimes against children would unite the world,” followed by a screenshot of a Q drop. The article also promotes the QAnon belief that Trump sends covert communications to “anons” on social media.

Rise of the New Media Newsletter
24,000+ Subscribers
Thousands of Paid Subscribers
Minimum Monthly Profits: $4,055
QAnon influencer Brian Cates writes about a variety of false narratives and conspiracy theories on Substack. Several articles promise that the “great awakening” is imminent, promising “payback” for the actions of “authoritarian goons” such as Anthony Fauci, who he believes lied about the severity of COVID to control American citizens. An article highlighting his distrust in Fauci reads, “You are going to see a very real wave of national anger quite unlike anything else this nation has ever experienced in the modern age,” followed by an image of an angry crowd holding pitchforks, bats and lit torches.

Much of Cates’ rhetoric is also centered around opposing the mainstream media, alleging that “Fake News” organizations are lying and trying to prevent the public from knowing about the “great awakening” by keeping them “trapped in the Matrix,” sometimes with violent ideation. In one article, he says, “The one single thing we need the Corporate Fake News Matrix to do is to F**KING DIE.” 

Steve Kirsch’s Newsletter
220,000+ Subscribers
Tens of Thousands of Paid Subscribers
Minimum Monthly Profits: $40,550
Entrepreneur Steve Kirsch, who once advocated for and helped fund COVID-19 vaccine research initiatives, joined Substack after pivoting to anti-vaccine conspiracy theories and other misinformation narratives. On his “About” page, Kirsch explains that he now uses platforms such as Telegram, Gab and Substack because “censorship has increased” on more mainstream sites like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

Kirsch’s articles focus heavily on vaccine misinformation, alleging that big pharma and the CDC are hiding insidious information about vaccines, which are proven to be safe and effective. However, he also discusses false narratives about election integrity, citing in one article the conspiratorial film “[S]election Code” and claiming that it shows ”ironclad evidence” of fraud in the 2020 election. Kirsch also attempts to paint former Mesa County, Colorado clerk and election denier Tina Peters as a silenced hero of democracy. Peters was recently found guilty of obstructing a government operation and still faces felony charges for her actions in the 2020 security breach.

Stone Cold Truth with Roger Stone
102,000+ Subscribers
Hundreds of Paid Subscribers
Minimum Monthly Profits: $579.70
Former Trump advisor and convicted felon Roger Stone regularly publishes inflammatory articles on his Substack, where he blames the “deep state” and the “legacy media cabal” for suppressing information from the public and alleges a series of conspiracies surrounding the death of JFK. He also combines medical misinformation with anti-government sentiments, suggesting that the COVID pandemic was weaponized by the government “to manipulate everyone into handing over their freedoms.”

In 2019, Stone was found guilty of obstructing an investigation into Russian interference during the 2016 presidential election, among other charges. Stone has also expressed public support for the Proud Boys, a right-wing extremist group whose rhetoric includes antisemitic, white supremacist and anti-LGBTQ+ tropes. Just before the 2020 election, Stone was documented on tape advocating for violence.

Who is Robert Malone
294,000+ Subscribers
Tens of Thousands of Paid Subscribers
Minimum Monthly Profits: $40,550
Robert Malone is best known for posting vaccine and COVID-related conspiracy theories. However, his content also promotes conspiratorial tropes about evil, powerful forces in the government. In one article, he discusses something called fifth generation warfare, or “5GW,” as a way to retain “autonomy and sovereignty,” rather than conceding to what he calls “the Uniparty and their globalist Overlords.” Malone also pushes anti-government conspiracy theories, writing that a “Uniparty is waging fifth generation warfare against American citizens.”

Substack’s Increasing Popularity on Twitter
Measuring the prevalence of Substack links on Twitter provides an important metric to determine the platform’s popularity, as authors often use Twitter to promote their newsletters to potential subscribers. Over the past few years, tweets which include external links to Substack pages, also known as outlinks, have increased demonstrably.

In 2021, the volume of Twitter mentions (including retweets) which included outlinks to Substack exceeded 6.08 million. In 2022, those mentions doubled to more than 12.6 million. In the first two months of 2023, mentions are already over 4.3 million.

This increase begs the question of whether the wealth of misinformation, disinformation and conspiracy theories on Substack – much of which has drawn countless paid and unpaid subscribers to the platform – violates the platform’s existing content moderation policies.

Content Moderation on Substack
Substack’s Content Guidelines prohibit anything that incites violence based on protected classes or promotes harmful or illegal activities.  While the guidelines denounce things like publishing private information (doxing), plagiarism and spam, they say little about publishing false or misleading information.

Substack’s Publisher Agreement gives some indication regarding its approach to harmful misinformation: “You also represent and warrant that you will not publish newsletters or otherwise use Substack in a manner that: is fraudulent, deceptive, threatening, abusive, harassing, tortious, defamatory, libelous, or in any way violates Substack’s Content Guidelines.” Yet it is unclear how fraud, deception, and the rest are measured or determined. For instance, the Kanekoa News example above could be construed as a deceptive publication about election fraud. Also, the antisemitic examples from Josh’s Research Archive and Turning Point Stacks clearly make deceptive and harmful claims about Jewish people.

Substack’s co-founders posted a lengthy explanation of their content moderation philosophy in December of 2020: “Ultimately, we think the best content moderators are the people who control the communities on Substack: the writers themselves … We think it’s better that the publisher, or a trusted member of that community, sets the tone and maintains the desired standard, and we will continue to build tools to help them to do that.”

A subsequent March 2021 post, which still appears today, says the platform “will resist any calls that may come for [an account’s] deplatforming” if the account in question has not broken any rules. Substack authors are primarily responsible for moderating their own content and any comments left by their readers. They may report readers directly to Substack for violating the Terms of Use via email. Substack will occasionally review reports about reader comments, but enforcement lies mostly with authors.

The article is published courtesy of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).