In the world of journalism and publishing, the rich often try to stop reporting with legal threats. For those who publish on large platforms with lots of resources, such challenges can cause massive headaches. For independent writers and publishers, however, the consequences can be far worse.
Citing an example in which a politician’s lawyers recently persecuted a Substack author for business reports, the popular newsletter platform announces the launch of Defender. After a few months in a closed pilot project with a “handful” of authors, Substack extends the service to interested parties.
The authors must also publish works that “may exert inappropriate legal pressure, such as abuse of copyright laws, attacks on first-time adaptation rights and false claims of defamation”. After approval, they will need to fill out a second form detailing the specific case for which they need assistance. Substack approves users on a case-by-case basis and which cases it ultimately supports.
The company is ready to pay fees of up to $ 1 million, although “in exceptional cases, we may cover more”. Such cases will continue to be intriguing tests of the first change, especially at a time when Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act has been heavily targeted by the President of the United States.
“Important writing blames the powerful – and often this is an agreement that the powerful would rather not support,” writes Substack. “In some cases, antagonists use legal threats to stop the work that makes them uncomfortable.”
With de-platforming increasingly becoming part of the social media landscape, eyes will no doubt be on Substack as the service decides which cases it will ultimately cover. After the sound of his description, Defender will largely concentrate on the reportage – although in such a fragmented media landscape even that can be in the eye of the beholder.
Defender will launch a few months after Substack introduced a $ 100,000 grant to support independent writers.