Medium Lets You Write Almost Anything — and That’s Not Necessarily a Good Thing

How to be a responsible member of the Medium community

Image for post
Image for post

Medium is a fantastic platform for writers and readers to connect with each other. Whether you’re interested in poetry, personal essays, or space exploration, Medium can help you connect to a community of like-minded people. For the most part, it’s a reasonably sane corner of the internet.

While Medium is all of these things, there’s one thing it is not: a source for truthful, honest reporting. To be fair, there are publications on here that employ fact-checkers and editors to vet their stories (like Politifact and The Economist, both of which have stopped publishing on Medium), but there are also plenty that don’t. Medium gives you the freedom to publish almost anything you want — including things that aren’t true. So before you use Medium as a source of information, here are a few questions you might want to ask yourself.

Is Medium a social media platform?

The short answer is yes. Medium co-mingles opinion pieces and journalism in a way that can blur the line between the two. The danger is that just because something looks like a legitimate article, doesn’t mean that it’s been written to journalistic standards. Welcome to the internet, right?

The truth is that Medium is largely self-policed. Some articles on Medium list their sources, but others don’t. Some are written by experts, others aren’t. It’s up to readers to decide what and whom to trust.

Does Medium police its content?

According to the terms and conditions, “Medium reserves the right to delete or disable content alleged to be infringing the intellectual property rights of others.” In other words, if you are a writer, please credit your sources (including images).

Read a little further, and you’ll see that Medium does not guarantee that its services “are accurate, complete, reliable, current or error-free.” Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act shields websites from responsibility for the content of their users. While Medium certainly encourages its users to produce trustworthy content, it’s up to us to actually do it.

One thing that sets Medium apart from other social media platforms is that it’s an ad-free space. This is intended to improve the user’s experience by “hosting more thoughtful and carefully written content.”

Are there rules for posting on Medium?

While Medium does not guarantee the accuracy of the stories published on its site, there are rules which its users should understand and follow. Medium prohibits threats of violence, harassment, and hate speech among other forms of bad behavior. Be a good human, and you won’t have to worry about running afoul of these rules.

I know reading terms and conditions isn’t exactly something most people do for fun, but if you’re posting stories on Medium, at least read the rules. They’re written for humans, not lawyers (no offense to the lawyers out there).

Medium can remove material on its site that violates its terms and conditions, or rules. I have no idea how often this actually happens, but if you’ve ever had Medium delete one of your posts because of a rule violation, I would love to hear about it in the response section of this article.

How do I read stories on Medium responsibly?

The best way to read stories on Medium is to pay for a subscription. This allows you to support writers you know and trust and helps promote quality content on the site. Follow the people and publications who deliver value to you. If a story teaches you something new, or changes how you see the world, engage others in the discussion by linking the story on your other social media accounts like Facebook and Twitter. In general, be smart and read with a critical eye.

How do I write stories on Medium responsibly?

There are lots and lots of posts on how to start writing on Medium and how to improve your writing once you’re on here. One piece of advice I’ve seen consistently is to post and post often. But instead of focusing exclusively on building your readership, instead, focus on building trust with your readership by writing thoughtful, well-researched articles. Take the time to fact check your own writing because no one else is going to do it for you. Include links to your sources whenever possible. If you’re posting to publications, read and follow their rules, too.

Medium is a great way to connect with a diverse group of people on a wide range of subjects. I learn something new every time I log on to this site, and I hope you do, too!

Geoscientist, runner, and writer. I will never stop being curious about the world.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store