Medium is a great platform. But is Medium’s enforcement of its content guidelines fair, unbiased, proportional, and respectful of users’ rights?
There’s no better way to say this. Medium isn’t as transparent and accountable in content moderation as it claims to be. That’s the view from where I stand.
Perhaps Medium’s huge success has made it a law unto itself!
Medium seems to have lost the plot when it comes to how it takes down user-generated content or suspends accounts that violate its rules. You only need to search online for the keyword, ‘Medium suspended my account’ to see what I am talking about.
It happened to me too.
Sometime in August or early September 2019, Medium suspended my account, informing me that my account was under investigation for alleged violation of its terms.
I didn’t receive an email.
This Account is Under Investigation or was Found in Violation of the Medium Rules
All I got was a notice when I tried to log into my Medium account.
As you can see from the image below, the notice simply said, “Your account is under investigation or was found in violation of the Medium Rules.”
That’s well over 12 months ago, and I haven’t received any further communication from Medium as to the outcome of the investigation and as to whether or not I can appeal. I have waited 12 months without a determination!
That’s three hundred and sixty five days.
Even murder cases don’t take that long to be heard!
As I write, I don’t even know why my account was suspended. I was never given any specific reason. And no determination after over 12 months! What am I expected to do?
I suppose that’s what happens when you build your digital business house on a rented lot.
More on building your social media house on a rented lot, in just a moment.
The Santa Clara Principles on Transparency and Accountability in Content Moderation
On May 7th, 2018, on the occasion of the second Content Moderation at Scale conference in Washington, DC, New America’s Open Technology Institute released the Santa Clara Principles on Transparency and Accountability Around Online Content Moderation. This was done as part of a coalition of organizations, advocates, and academic experts who support the right to free expression online.
I will hereafter refer to The Santa Clara Principles on Transparency and Accountability in Content Moderation as the Santa Clara Principles.
The Santa Clara Principles outline minimum standards tech platforms must meet in order to provide adequate transparency and accountability around their efforts to take down user-generated content or suspend accounts that violate their rules.
The idea is “to ensure that the enforcement of their content guidelines is fair, unbiased, proportional, and respectful of users’ rights.”
Essentially, the principles advocate for greater transparency and accountability by focusing on three key demands—
- Numbers. Companies should publish the numbers of posts removed and accounts permanently or temporarily suspended due to violations of their content guidelines.
- Notice to those affected. Companies should provide notice to each user whose content is taken down or account is suspended about the reason for the removal or suspension.
- A robust appeals process. Companies should provide a meaningful opportunity for timely appeal of any content removal or account suspension.
Medium Claims to Support the Goals and Spirit of the Santa Clara Principles
When Medium suspended my account, the notice referred me to the Medium Rules. There Medium states that that it “is committed to providing a transparent, open platform for expression and therefore supports the goals and spirit of The Santa Clara Principles on Transparency and Accountability in Content Moderation as a starting point for further discussion.”
Medium’s Breach of the Santa Clara Principles
Medium suspended my account over 12 months ago. Sadly, to date, Medium has failed, refused and or neglected to comply with the Santa Clara Principles.
Here’s why I say so:
Breach of Paragraph 2 of the Santa Clara Principles
First off, Medium is in clear breach of Paragraph 2 of the Santa Clara Principles, titled “Notice”. It provides as follows:
Companies should provide notice to each user whose content is taken down or account is suspended about the reason for the removal or suspension.
In general, companies should provide detailed guidance to the community about what content is prohibited, including examples of permissible and impermissible content and the guidelines used by reviewers. Companies should also provide an explanation of how automated detection is used across each category of content.
When providing a user with notice about why her post has been removed or an account has been suspended, a minimum level of detail for an adequate notice includes:
- URL, content excerpt, and/or other information sufficient to allow identification of the content removed.
- The specific clause of the guidelines that the content was found to violate.
- How the content was detected and removed (flagged by other users, governments, trusted flaggers, automated detection, or external legal or other complaint). The identity of individual flaggers should generally not be revealed, however, content flagged by government should be identified as such, unless prohibited by law.
- Explanation of the process through which the user can appeal the decision.
In violation of Paragraph 2, Medium hasn’t given me any ULR, content excerpt, other information sufficient to allow identification of the content removed, the specific clause of the Guidelines that the content was found to violate and how the content was detected and removed.
And no, Medium didn’t provide any information about how to appeal.
Breach of Paragraph 3 of the Santa Clara Principles
Secondly, Medium appears to have also breached Paragraph 3 of the Santa Clara Principles, which is titled “Appeal”.
The paragraph states as follows: “Companies should provide a meaningful opportunity for timely appeal of any content removal or account suspension.”
In violation of Paragraph 3, Medium hasn’t provided me a meaningful opportunity (or any opportunity at all) for a timely appeal!
On June 6 2020, about 8 months after Medium suspended my account, I appealed the suspension. In compliance with the Medium Rules, I sent my appeal by email to email@example.com and copied firstname.lastname@example.org.
I concluded my appeal as follows:
Having regard to all the circumstances set above, your inordinate delay in notifying me of your determination (which I am yet to receive after 8 months), and your non-compliance with the Santa Clara Principles, I respectfully urge to reactivate my account.
That was over 3 months ago.
Till date, I have not received any response from Medium. I haven’t even received the courtesy of an acknowledgement.
Did I say Medium is not accountable?
Why I Believe Medium Messed Up
In summary, let me set out below why I believe when Medium suspended my account, it messed up big time.
- Medium suspended my account and my content for over 12 months without any explanation or even a determination.
- Failure to provide the ULR, content excerpt, other information sufficient to allow identification of the content removed, the specific clause of the Guidelines that the content was found to violate and how the content was detected and removed.
- Medium failed to provide information about how to appeal.
- Failure to provide a meaningful opportunity for a timely appeal.
Medium Account Suspended In Error
I do believe that Medium suspended my account in error. It’s breach of the Santa Clara Principles just makes it a more bitter pill to swallow.
The Effect of Medium’s Non-Compliance on Me and My Blog
When Medium suspended my account, I had been on the platform for nearly 1 year. I had a lot of articles.
Can you imagine the impact of Medium’s non-compliance with the Santa Clara Principles has put me and my Blog through in the past 12 months?
I had articles ranking on Page 1 of Google and they were all taken down. Where do I even begin now?
Lessons Learnt from Medium- Don’t Build Your Digital House on a Rented Lot
What lessons have I learnt from this whole saga when Medium suspended my account?
Don’t build on rented lot.
Some time ago, I wrote a blog post where I said this,
What would happen if Facebook suddenly releases a new algorithm and your posts aren’t seen anymore? What would happen if you can no longer be part of a Pinterest group board? What if Google inexplicably changes the rules (which they can do as a virtual monopoly) and you no longer get organic traffic? So you’re making money from your YouTube channel. Fantastic 🙂 What would happen if YouTube suspends your account 🙁
Simply look at YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, Reddit, Facebook, Medium and any other social network and you’ll see how quickly they are changing. Facebook organic reach is in the tanker. Brand and electronic marketers who put all their social eggs in the organic Facebook basket are being hit incredibly hard. This won’t happen with email because with email you are able to build your own plan, strategy and integrated platform that inspires, attracts, engages and nurtures your ideal customers
I should have listened to my own advice!
Wrapping Up – Don’t Rent. Own!
Here is the stark reality.
It is always better to own than to rent.
And that applies to your online business, as well as everything else.
I would like to share with you 2 simple ways, you can start to build your digital business empire on premises that you own.
Ready? Awesome! Let’s dive right in.
#1. Start Blogging
Blogging is one of the easiest way to build your digital business on lot that you own. And of course, starting a blog has the added benefit of also being one of the easiest ways to build a platform.
But there is a catch.
Your blog has to be self-hosted.
That’s because when you blog on free hosted platforms like WordPress.com, TypePad.com, and Blogger.com, you’re doing the same thing. You’re building your business on rented lot. I don’t recommend any of those free platforms because you’re at their mercy. Whenever they change their algorithms, you can literally lose everything.
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#2. Start Building Your Email List
The other way to build your business on lot that belongs to you is growing your email list.
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