Medium.com, a blogging and writing platform used by many to produce news articles, tech tutorials, and cultural editorial pieces has recently banned Mike Cernovich, Jack Posobiec, and Laura Loomer, deleting all their articles with it. And while, in their statement to many news outlets, they’ve stated they will not comment on actions taken against any one account, it’s clear from the recent changes to their terms of service that they’ve determined these authors to be in violation of either hate speech or disinformation rules — a decision I find absolutely abhorrent.
And so, I’m going to be returning to writing scripts for myself, and publishing these scripts on Medium as well as on Steemit — if nothing else to see if I can get myself banned as well. But the changes to Medium’s rules go much further than just adding “disinformation” to the list of bannable offenses. The preamble to their Rules page has completely changed. At the end of 2017, their Preamble read as follows:
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.
However, all of this was removed in the February 7th update to their rules. The language has completely changed, now reading:
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.
It appears their opinions on censorship have completely changed, to the point where it doesn’t even get a mention anymore. Instead, they are reserving the right to censor anyone they desire on their platform and — while this may be their right given the legal nature of private servers in the United States — will have severely negative consequences for both the site’s users, as well as the company itself, given Mike Cernovich’s forthcoming lawsuit for Civil Rights Violations. I do so hope he brings up Marsh v. Alabama, as the precedent set in that Supreme Court decision is absolutely applicable to free speech on the internet, and needs its time to be brought up again in court.
For those unaware, Marsh v. Alabama was a decision made after the town of Chickasaw, Alabama, a town whose land and property was predominately owned by the Gulf Shipbuilding Corporation, charged a woman named Marsh with trespassing after she stood outside of the post office to distribute religious literature. Though it was posted all over town that no soliciting was permitted in the privately-owned town without a permit, it was also made clear to Marsh that no permit would be issued to her. She refused to leave on First Amendment grounds, and she was arrested by the deputy sheriff and charged with trespassing. In her trial, the trespassing charges were upheld, but after her first appeal, she appealed her case directly to the Supreme Court, which found in a 5–3 decision that a trespassing statute could not be used to prevent the distribution of religious materials on a town’s sidewalk, even though the sidewalk was part of a privately-owned company town.
The justices contested the State’s argument that the town’s rights were analogous to the rights of homeowners to regulate the conduct of guests within their home, stating that ownership does not always mean absolute dominion. The court pointed out that the more an owner opens his property to the public in general, the more his rights are circumscribed by the statutory and constitutional rights of those who are invited in. This ruling has been used in cases such as Cyber Promotions v. America Online, 1996, and has recently been discussed as potential precedent for online communications mediums like Facebook, or Medium, to be treated as public space to prevent censoring free speech.
Falling in line with the Silicon Valley oligopoly and oligarchy, Medium is making a terrible decision in banning these individuals, and I certainly hope they attempt to remove me from the platform as well. The Streisand Effect is a powerful force, and one Medium clearly hasn’t considered in their decision. By removing Cernovich’s account and inviting upon themselves this civil lawsuit, Cernovich is going to be getting a lot more visible in the public eye for a while, and entirely at Medium’s expense.
I’m certainly made curious, though, by their choice to add “disinformation” to the list of bannable offenses on their platform — what then, I’m led to ask myself and Medium, is disinformation? Unfortunately, for all the conduct they clearly define within their updated rules list, disinformation is given no further explanation: it is merely lumped in under “Related Conduct” with targeting, harassment, hate speech, and violence. In addition, like Twitter and other platforms, Medium has reserved the right to take “off-platform actions” into account when restricting access to the platform — a statement which likely has George Orwell rolling in his grave for its rather dystopian connotations. After all, it’s not enough to police your own platform — you must police the individuals with whom you disagree and attack them directly, even if they haven’t used your servers to engage in that behaviour; right Medium?
I also have to wonder, will these rules be applied equally across all groups, or will Medium’s personal politics grant a pass to some individuals while punishing individuals with whom the Medium staff disagrees, as has been seen at places like Twitter? The new rules disallow posts that “glorify, celebrate, downplay, or trivialize violence, suffering, abuse, or deaths of individuals or groups,” “the use of scientific or pseudoscientific claims to pathologize, dehumanize, and disempower others,” and yet the platform is very popular with college-aged writers and their supporters who regularly pathologize and dehumanize white people of any stripe through the use of pseudoscientific claims, as well as trivialize the violence perpetrated by Black Lives Matter and anti-Trump protesters. Calls for intolerance, exclusion, or segregation based on protected characteristics are disallowed, and yet the platform is used by individuals to promote the idea of black-only and minority-only university programs and facilities, at the expressed exclusion of anyone deemed to be “white”. Will Medium be treating these violations of their rules with the same silent and immediate removal, as they did with Cernovich and Loomer?
I believe it should be sufficient to say that I am not judgemental on any level when it comes to personal interactions, even personal online interactions, with any individual regardless of ethnicity, politics, gender, or anything else. While I may not agree with some things Laura Loomer or Mike Cernovich have to say, I believe wholeheartedly that they have every right to say it. A person has the right to think what they think and say what they say, and attempting to limit their ability to speak shows just how far Medium has gone from their considerations of free speech that were upheld on their rules page not four weeks ago — it’s pretty clear that Medium no longer thinks that the best response to bad ideas is good ideas, nor wishes to encourage spirited and heated discussions for the sake of moving the conversation forward. But if this is the case, then there’s no better place for me to be making my arguments than right on their platform, which is why I’m scripting my videos again, as compared to speaking off the cuff, and publishing my scripts here — at least, until I’m banned or an alt-media competitor to Medium comes around.
After all, it’d be a much more boring world without true diversity of thought and opinion.