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Medium is Controlling its Coronavirus Narrative

by Daniel Goldman about a year ago in politics

The biased treatment of coronavirus related articles on Medium is revolting.

Just like we have Twitter, Facebook, Quora, Stack Exchange, and so on, I'm hoping that the writing community will have a number of platforms on which to write, including Vocal, publish0x, and Medium. I had a lot of hope for Medium in particular, and found it before Vocal. However, more and more I am finding their practices revolting, and perhaps nowhere are their nepotistic and destructive practices more obvious than with their treatment of the coronavirus scare.

Curation Bias

Medium runs on a curation system. It's one of the most problematic aspects of their model. While anyone can post on the platform, Medium selects which articles to promote. If this selection process weren't biased, I wouldn't necessarily mind. But it is biased.

Community written articles on SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19 / "the coronavirus") are almost immediately rejected for curation. As a result, it is very difficult for an author to get their message out on the topic. I've written a few articles on the issue, and all have been almost immediately rejected for curation. The same is true for many colleagues.

Elemental on Coronavirus

And yet, Elemental, one of their core in-house publications, has focused almost exclusively on the issue. Essentially every one of their recent articles has been on the outbreak, and its effects. In fact, pretty much the last twenty articles that have been published on Elemental have been on the virus!

All of this is in addition to an entire new section dedicated to articles on the topic. I wouldn't necessarily mind if the platform was more open about accepting articles by people who weren't their pets. But that's simply not the case.

This activity is an extension of ongoing nepotism on the platform. A pattern of behavior that should have been cut off, has been expanded. But it gets even worse.

Disclaimers and Warnings

However, their bias gets worse. Medium added two different sections attached to every article. The first one to appear was a media block giving references to where people can learn more about the pandemic.

The first thing to note is that these sources are not outside sources. They are not references to scholarly literature or expert discussions. They are links to articles that are published in Medium's core publications, including Elemental, many of which are behind the paywall, meaning that they are articles that people are profiting on. I have no issue with science communicators generating revenue from writing about these topics, but Medium is directing all of the traffic on the issue to their pet authors.

Moreover, this block replaces the media block that normally shows a list of similar articles, by the same author, on the same topic, or published in the same publication. A key piece of the UX, which was core to increasing readership for the average author, has been replaced with a conduit to Medium's own select authors and publications.

But wait. It gets even worse. More recently, Medium added a second disclaimer.

Okay. That's fair. And it's true. We have to be very careful about the information we're reviewing, whether it's coming from a general author, or one of Medium's own. So of course this disclaimer appears on Medium selected articles, right? Wrong. It only appears on articles that they have not selected. This disclaimer is likely to make readers weary of all articles, except for the ones published on the in-house publications, some of which are quite poorly written by the way.

Rant End

I really did not want this article to be a rant, and I have no issue with a company protecting itself. I also have no issue with a company providing disclaimers. But I have a serious issue with clear and abusive nepotism. Medium has to stop this kind of behavior. It is disgusting. It is beyond just nepotistic. It is bordering on a lie, because the disclaimer existing on all articles except that the ones that Medium selects, suggests that their own articles are trustworthy, while others are not.

I do hope that they change. If not, I'm probably going to ditch Medium entirely and focus on Vocal and publish0x.

Daniel Goldman
Daniel Goldman
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Daniel Goldman

Visit my homepage. I am a polymath and a rōnin scholar with interests in many areas, including political science, economics, history, and philosophy. I've been writing about all of these topics, and others, for the past two decades.

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