The 46th Block: Publishing as intended

Substack is a mess, both in terms of perception and intention.

This week…

Substack writers, including Jude Doyle, are leaving Substack, and for alarming reasons. Peter Kafka writes for Vox about the platform’s controversy:

Substack was publishing — and in some cases offering money upfront to — authors [Doyle] say are “people who actively hate trans people and women, argue ceaselessly against our civil rights, and in many cases, have a public history of directly, viciously abusing trans people and/or cis women in their industry.”

Journalist Annalee Newitz further describes on her own Substack newsletter how “Substack paid a secret group of writers to make newsletter authorship seem lucrative.” Substack, in a statement, explains why they don’t publicise their list of Substack Pro writers, despite being “proud of [it].”

Some of us continue to write on Substack while simultaneously publishing stories critical of the direction the platform is heading in – but in the interest of transparency, I am actively looking into migrating to a different platform that can take on the archive and mailing list without much of a bother to the end-users. Open to receiving suggestions, particularly interested in ones with an audio integration.

The ex-Pfizer scientist who became an anti-vax hero

Steve Stecklow and Andrew Macaskill write about former Pfizer VP and scientific researcher in a special report for Reuters:

Some former colleagues at Pfizer say they no longer recognize the Mike Yeadon they once knew. They described him as a knowledgeable and intelligent man who always insisted on seeing evidence and generally avoided publicity.

One of those ex-colleagues is Sterghios A. Moschos, who holds degrees in molecular biology and pharmaceutics. In December, Yeadon posted on Twitter a spoof sign that said, “DITCH THE MASK.” Moschos tweeted back: “Mike what hell ?! Are you out to actively kill people? You do realize that if you are wrong, your suggestions will result in deaths ??”

Tim Berners-Lee: ‘We need social networks where bad things happen less’

John Harris interviews the inventor of the world wide web for The Guardian:

Can [Tim Berners-Lee] explain what [the toxic internet] means to him?

“Well, you’re not a feminist blogger,” he says. “If you were, you wouldn’t ask me that. If you’re a woman, you can have a fine time until the one moment you get picked on. And it can be psychologically very, very extreme. The toxic internet is something that young people have less ability to manage. Women will be more susceptible. LGBTQ people, typically, are much more likely to be picked as a target. The toxic internet isn’t something I experience at all. You may not.”

Well, at least he’s aware of his privilege.

Truth, disinformation, and the future of the media

Fireside chat with Dan Rather, Natalie Wynn, and Avery Trufelman at the COGSEC conference:

What I read, watch and listen to…

  • I’m reading again, this essay by Amy Tan, Mother Tongue.

  • I’m watching Broey Deschanel’s video essay on the harmful stereotype of the bisexual psychopath in film and TV:

Chart of the week

I had one question about last weekend and Katharina Buchholz has the answer on Statista. (I hate it.)

The Starting Block is a weekly collection of notes on science and society with an emphasis on data, democracy, and disinformation. Read the archives. Find me on Twitter, Instagram and Linkedin. Send questions, corrections and suggestions to