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“I Got Censored!” — This Could Be You

  • 6 min read

Play by Medium’s Rules.

This could be you in the featured image.

No, I’m not kidding.

You have to stick to Medium’s Rules.

Otherwise, you can get censored and your story will be removed by Medium’s Trust & Safety Team without warning.

Unfortunately, writers often don’t know about Medium’s Rules

As on any social media platform, you will be banned when you don’t play by the rules.

Even bestselling author Jordan Peterson (12 Rules for Life) was banned from Twitter lately.

On Medium, several writers have been censored within the last past months

Here’s a recent example:

If you search for the tag #Marketing you’ll find Isaiah McCall.

He has a follower base of around 30K people because he knows how to game Medium.com and write catchy headlines.

Here are some of the catchy headlines:

Headlines like this made him the #1 Top Writer on the topic #Marketing on Medium.

Tim Denning comes in second place.

Isaiah knows how to write online and how to lure readers into his writing.

And he doesn’t need a big publication to excite and grow his audience.

He’s self-publishing his controversial pieces in “Yard Couch”.

However, last week, Medium took his article “Being a Democrat is Easy, It’s Why a Red Wave is Coming” down.

Here’s the email Isaiah shared with his subscribers:

According to Medium’s Trust and Safety Team, his story was censored “(d)ue to elevated risk of potential harm to persons or public health”.

You need to know about the COVID-19 Content Policy

“When I reached out to Medium they didn’t explain precisely how I violated the rules, they only directed me toward a page about COVID-19 Vaccine health. It’s like a game of Where’s Waldo to find out why you were censored” Isaiah shared.

This is what Medium’s Trust & Safety Team sent over declining to comment on specifics:

Medium Censored Me, Now What’s Next?

In Medium’s Help Center you can find the COVID-19 Content Policy. They set guidelines for acceptable content and behavior on the platform.

For instance, they recommend:

“…we encourage readers to always fact-check content posted, and seek the most up-to-date information from official sources, such as the Center for Disease Control or World Health Organization.”

Although Isaiah stated his article was a “CDC-sourced, WHO-sourced, and NewsGuard-vetted critique of vaccine effectiveness”, Medium removed his story.

Why?

Because even if you’ve fact-checked your story, Medium’s Trust & Safety applies “other secondary frameworks to come to an enforcement decision”.

What are Medium’s Secondary Frameworks when deciding whether a story should get censored?

Medium’s Trust & Safety Team has risk analysis in place for potentially controversial, suspect, or extreme content.

They share a number of questions here.

For instance:

“Who will likely be affected as a result?”

The list of questions is followed by prohibited health claims such as:

“Content intended to directly or indirectly discourage others from receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, or advocating third-party content intended to do so.”

As well as a list of prohibited conspiracy claims. For instance:

“COVID-19 as hoax, fake, or false hysteria”

Why does Medium have a COVID-19 Content Policy in place?

Medium operates both as a blogging platform and as a media outlet.

On Medium ideas can “come from anywhere”, Ev Williams used to say.

However, this also makes it hard to tell fact from fiction.

As the pandemic waltzed into town, Medium made strides to stop the spread of misleading health news.

How?

In their owned publications Elemental and OneZero they “covered COVID-19 with the journalistic ethics, editing, and fact-checking you’d expect from a traditional outlet”, The Verge reported.

Additionally, Medium started an official COVID-19 blog to promote articles from verified experts.

Plus, it rolled out the COVID-19 Content Policy and hired a team of science editors.

“Coronavirus: Why You Must Act Now”

I bet already came across the story “Coronavirus: Why You Must Act Now”. This story was written by Tomas Pueyo (who stopped writing on Medium in June 2022) and got millions of views.

Overnight, Tomas’ article exploded.

In fact, it was one of the most-read stories about the virus written by a non-expert who became an “expert” overnight.

It was shared by Andrew Yang, Steven Pinker as well as quoted in The New York Times and BuzzFeed.

Asked about Tomas’ feedback on the viral story he said: “It’s great!” and added “You need the checks and balances, especially in my case, because I’m nobody. I have no training in epidemiology.”

In real life, Tomas creates apps, for instance, Zoo World.

His secret sauce:

“When the virus started to spread in the US, he immersed himself in Johns Hopkins’ repository on GitHub to figure out what was going on.”

Since one of Tomas’ skills is making sense of data, he simply reported what he saw.

“The Curve Is Already Flat”

There's another story of A.J. Kay, an essayist from Tempe, Arizona.

She wrote “The Curve Is Already Flat” which received 275,000 views in the first 48 hours after it was published.

A.J. Kay found out that the virus had come to the United States far earlier than previously reported.

“…it fed into the conservative narrative that the mainstream media had gotten this wrong. Kay says she didn’t intend to take a political stand, but she was happy to see the article go viral.” The Verge

Two days later, she received an email from Medium’s Trust & Safety Team and her story was taken down.

Similar to the current example of Isaiah Kay felt like “she was also being censored for refusing to play into the popular narrative.”

Bottom Line

As on any social media platform, you will be censored or banned when you don’t play by the rules.

Keep the COVID-19 Content Policy in mind if you want to write about the pandemic.

Especially if you want to share potentially controversial, suspect, or extreme content.

The COVID-19 Content Policy might be opaque but it is here to stay.

The Trust & Safety Team is watching us and we should try to play by the rules to not get censored or banned.

My advice: if you want to write about #Health topics and COVID-19, check out Medium’s Rules.


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