I’ll be frank. I don’t understand the cryptocurrency industry, but I do understand content.
Ed Dunn believes that Medium should ban stories about cryptocurrency and initial coin offerings.
Facebook has just banned all ads about these things, whether the advertiser is a legal business or not. Some are calling this censorship, but I think it deserves a bigger discussion. Advertising is a much different animal than providing content on Medium.
What is Medium?
Medium is a private company that offers social journalism (read: it’s a blog platform). Amateurs and professionals are allowed to post on the platform, provided the content is within the terms and conditions.
Here are two pieces of the terms that I find relevant to this discussion:
(1) You’re responsible for the content you post. This means you assume all risks related to it, including someone else’s reliance on its accuracy, or claims relating to intellectual property or other legal rights.
(2) We can remove any content you post for any reason.
Medium makes it quite clear that they can and will censor your posts.
Generally, when I think of censorship, it relates to the government banning speech or public communication under the First Amendment. When the government attempts to suppress speech or communication, it is clearly against the law. This distinction is important in any discussion about censorship.
Medium is a private company, (as is Facebook, Twitter, etc.). Medium clearly has the right to remove any content, because that’s what the writer signed up for when they posted a piece. The question isn’t whether they can remove articles on cryptocurrency, but whether they should.
I firmly believe that platforms like Medium should have guidelines in place to prevent unethical hucksters from profiting. But on the other hand, how would that be practical? Who determines what is hype and what is mis-information? How does an algorithm account for an honest opinion versus someone who is using click bait to draw traffic?
If Medium bans all discussion on cryptocurrency, it effectively shuts down genuine writers who are working to understand and explain the market. The conversation shouldn’t be shut down, but there could be some kind of action taken to help the general public know what is legitimate and what isn’t (like a flagging mechanism other platforms already utilize).
This debate isn’t about a private company and how it deals with free speech. The conversation needs to start with how people can find authentic information in a world where anyone can say anything and have it shared in just a few seconds. It’s the loudest voices that get heard in platforms like Medium, Facebook, and Twitter, not the most reliable. In a Utopian world, that is how we would collectively enact change.