The Future

Alt-right leaders can no longer spread disinformation on Medium

A complete overhaul of the platform's rules caught some awful people in the crossfire.

The Future

BANNED

The Future

Alt-right leaders can no longer spread disinformation on Medium

A complete overhaul of the platform's rules caught some awful people in the crossfire.

Medium has suspended the accounts of Mike Cernovich, Jack Posobiec, and Laura Loomer. Unfortunately, this means that “articles” like Cernovich’s “How I Would Run for Congress” are no more. Links to any of the suspended accounts (or their published works) redirect to the dreary white suspension page, which reads “This page is unavailable.”

Screenshot of Mike Cernovich's Medium page.

Screenshot of Mike Cernovich's Medium page.

While first pointed out on February 19 by Nathan Bernard on Twitter, it’s entirely possible that the suspensions could have occurred earlier in the month and gone unnoticed. The most likely culprit is the company’s February 7 update to their ‘Medium Rules’ section. Calling it an “update” is a bit of an understatement; it’s more like a total overhaul, with a particular targeted purpose.

By far the biggest change made by Medium is the addition of a section called “Related Content,” which reads “We do not allow posts or accounts that engage in on-platform, off-platform, or cross-platform campaigns of targeting, harassment, hate speech, violence, or disinformation. We may consider off-platform actions in assessing a Medium account, and restrict access or availability to that account.” (Emphasis ours.)

Though there’s obviously no way to tell for sure, it seems reasonable to infer that this update was responsible for Cernovich, Posobiec, and Loomer’s suspension. When asked for comment on the suspensions, a Medium spokes person told The Outline that the company "do[es] not comment on individual accounts," and referred us to a recent post and the updated rules page. Medium’s new rules are a crackdown on disinformation campaigns and hate speech both on and (more importantly) off the platform, which poses a serious threat to Cernovich, Posobiec, Loomer and their ilk.

Even the preamble before the actual list of rules is drastically different. (For clarity’s sake, I’m using this November 16, 2017 capture from the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine as a baseline.) The beginning of the 2017 Medium Rules posting was all about freedom of speech and expression. Here’s a taste of what I mean:

Medium exists for people to share their opinions, thoughts, and ideas, and to move conversation forward. We support vigorous debate of substantive issues. Inevitably this will lead to disagreements and heated discussions. Sometimes this will enlighten. Other times it will frustrate. In all cases, we ask that our users treat each other with respect.

Medium is a free and open platform for anyone to write their views and opinions. As such we don’t vet or approve posts before our users publish them. We believe free expression deserves a lot of leeway, so we generally think the best response to bad ideas is good ideas, not censorship.

Medium cut all of this in their February 7 update. Now the language is guarded and defensive, like the company is keenly aware of its popularity amidst, well, folks like Cernovich, Posobiec, and Loomer:

We welcome discussion from the broad spectrum of viewpoints. Nevertheless, to maintain a safe and welcoming environment for a wide range of people to engage in meaningful conversations, we prohibit certain conduct.

Each participant in our community is responsible for maintaining these standards.

In deciding whether someone has violated the rules, we will take into account things like newsworthiness, the context and nature of the posted information, and applicable privacy laws.

This is only the beginning of a lengthy Rules posting designed to give Medium more power when it comes to policing not only the content that is being posted to its platform, but the people who are posting it, too.

The “Hate Speech” section has been significantly expanded. It was previously contained to a mere sentence: “We don’t allow content that promotes violence or hatred against people based on characteristics like race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, disability, disease, age, sexual orientation, gender, or gender identity.”

But it is now more detailed and focused, disallowing posts that “glorify, celebrate, downplay, or trivialize violence, suffering, abuse, or deaths of individuals or groups,” including “the use of scientific or pseudoscientific claims to pathologize, dehumanize, or disempower others.” Also prohibited: “calls for intolerance, exclusion, or segregation based on protected characteristics, nor do we allow the glorification of groups which do any of the above” and “hateful text, images, symbols, or other content in your username, profile, or bio.”

Time to start the countdown for an Alt-Right Medium...

Updated at 02/21/2018 5:05 PM: Following the publication of this story, Mike Cernovich posted a video entitled "Why I'm Suing Medium for Civil Rights Violations (Unruh Act)." In this video he claims that by suspending his account Medium has effectively discriminated against him for being a white man, and insists that despite the (supposedly) pending lawsuit, he's totally over Medium anyway, so it doesn't even matter.

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