T
Author
Dennis Hambeukers
Design Transformation Evangelist
more about me

The Day My Medium Account Got Suspended

published on 2018-09-29 by Dennis Hambeukers

Yesterday was a strange day. It was the day my Medium account was suspended. For reasons unknown, Medium decided to block all my posts from the outside world. I could see my own posts when I was logged in, but the rest of the world saw a 404 page.

My suspended Medium account: 404s for all my posts

Medium account suspended

I immediately googled “Medium account suspended” and landed on a post on Medium by Medium titled “Medium Rules”. There I found all kinds of reasons for suspending accounts ranging from violence to hate, harassment, spam, pornographic content, exploitation of minors and privacy violation. Needless to say, I did not recognize any of these points in relation to any article I have ever posted on Medium. I am a positive, unhateful, non-spamming type of person.

No warnings

I did not receive any warning from Medium. No email. No notification. Nothing. I found out that my account was suspended because I posted a link to an article on LinkedIn. The link did not work. I looked into it and found that none of my articles were available on the Medium platform. There was no way to find out what caused the suspension. There was no way to remove the content that caused the suspension. Googling “Suspended Medium Account” also didn’t give me any useful leads. The only thing I found were articles on banned alt-right trolls. Needless to say, I am neither alt-right nor a troll.

In their rules, they state that they will send you an email if they found a violation of their rules.

If it looks like you’ve violated our rules, we may send you an email and ask you to explain what you’re up to and why.

Medium Rules

They didn’t. They suspended all my articles without warning. So I sent them an email asking what’s up. I am waiting for a respons.

Censorship

Although Medium welcomes views from the broad spectrum of viewpoints, my account was suspended for reasons unknown. I immediately started thinking about what I could have done to break the rules of Medium, how I could have offended anyone in any way with any part of the articles I posted. The suspension started on the day I posted an article with the title “Conservatism And Progressivism In Design Today”. In the article, I was thinking about progress, technological developments, alternatives for following all the trends and how this applies to design. Could the excessive use of the word Conservatism have caused a red flag to pop up?

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.

Medium Rules

Illegal calls for action

Another thing I started experimenting with is a call to action at the end of my articles. I like writing articles for the sake of writing. But I also like to get in contact with like-minded people. So at some point, I included a call to action on my posts. At the end of the post, I thanked the reader for reading my article and invited him to connect on LinkedIn with me. This worked. Reminding people of the possibility to connect on LinkedIn generates more invitations. In my last two articles, I tried to up the ante. I also reminded people of the fact that they can express their opinion of the article they just read by pressing the clap button. YouTubers do it all the time. And I decided to give it a try. I don’t have a lot of data yet. But limited data seems to suggest that reminding people to clap leads to a higher percentage of people clapping articles. Maybe this was a bridge too far for Medium? There is something in the rules about that:

Do not ask for claps or include other calls to action, including gifs of clapping, requests for donations, email list sign-ups, or other links or embeds for the purpose of capturing user information or soliciting money.

Medium Rules

I did not include the clap call to action to capture user information or money. I did it because more claps means more visibility on the platform, which means more people can benefit from my insights, which makes the world a better place 🙂

Creative freedom

I’ll have to wait for a reaction from Medium to find out the exact reason for the suspension of my account. I believe that we can come to an agreement. I believe my account has been restricted in error.

If you believe your content or account have been restricted or disabled in error, or believe there is relevant context we were not aware of in reaching our determination, you can write to us at yourfriends@medium.com. We will consider all good faith efforts to appeal.

Medium Rules

But this suspension got me thinking about freedom of speech, creative freedom, filter bubbles and the power of large publications like Medium, Twitter and Facebook. We all know about the effects of Facebook algorithms on the recent Presidential Elections in the US. The algorithm of Facebook favors negativity. Posts from and about Trump were more negative than those of Clinton. Ergo more attention for Trump on Facebook. This is business. More interaction on the platform means more money so Facebook program algorithms to stimulate discussions and sharing. The effects of this on other systems like elections are logical but unwanted.

The case of the suspension of my Medium account will not have that much effect on the world at large, but this type of suspension has effects. The fact alone that your account can get suspended if you break any rule or interpretation of rule creates behavior.

The rules are not like laws. They are very high-level. The rules of Medium are communicated in less than 2000 words. So there is a lot of room for interpretation. Laws tend to use more words to explain what the rules are. The room for interpretation that 2000 words give Medium gives them power. Power to interpret their own rules. You can only appeal to Medium. There is no separation of powers. If you publish on Medium, you submit to their power.

The behavior that this creates is fear. Fear to offend anyone, fear to break some interpretation of some rule, fear that not humans, but robots and algorithms uphold the rules, fear that these algorithms count certain flagged words and don’t understand the context, the point, the story, the context. So every time somebody writes something on Medium, he is afraid of offending. Offending means suspension. A suspension means the loss of all content, followers, claps, interactions, highlights. If you have built up a following with years of work, it’s lost. The audience you built up is gone. Medium owns your audience and they can take it away.

Do I want to live in this type of world?

If you write on Medium, you become dependent on Medium. You are subjected to the power of the platform. They can set and change the rules. They determine what is offensive and what not. They own the audience. And every time you wander into a grey area, where you want to explore thoughts around lets say conservatism, you are limited by the fear of offending someone, of suspension of your account, of losing the audience you built. Medium doesn’t just suspend the article that is offensive, but your entire account, all your posts. This kind of censorship is killing creativity, freedom of speech, freedom of thought. This is what’s wrong with all the social platforms. They ban people because they don’t want to be the platform for people to spread hate and violence, but the censorship they create limits the freedom of speech and thought of thinkers that want to go into grey areas once in a while or that want to use certain words to put them in a different light. Whatever the reason for my suspension might be, the possibility of suspension in itself is killing creativity. We are not only living in a filter bubble but also in a censorship bubble.

The answer is no. I don’t want to live in an environment where I have to fear suspension and loss of content and audience. I have no bad intentions and I don’t want to hurt people. But I want to be able to offend people a little bit from time to time. I want to be able to take an extreme standpoint from time to time. Because this helps critical thinking and the world ahead.

Back to WordPress

So I went back to WordPress. A couple of years ago I left WordPress for Medium because my WordPress blog was hacked and Medium offered a better User Experience. Now WordPress has developed a plugin called Gutenberg that will be the standard interface in the next generation of WordPress. This interface is similar to that of Medium. The User Experience is not totally the same and I liked to be in the cloud without the hassle of installing and updating and hosting a WordPress. But the creative freedom is worth the extra hassle. So I’m back.

The second thing I want to do on this WordPress blog is to post the article that probably got my Medium account suspended: http://dennishambeukers.com/2018/09/29/conservatism-and-progressivism-in-design-today/

The third thing I have to do is enhance this theme. I now used the Gutenberg theme, but it misses a couple of things I need. So back to the drawing board and to the code editor.