Hello Medium, both the institution and users. Welcome to the free expression conundrum. Free expression is arguably the preeminent right of American citizenship, yet we often take it for granted. It’s critical importance derives from it being the foremost means of protecting the other rights we enjoy, without resorting to violence. The ability to freely express oneself is a great strength, and a necessity, for liberal democracy, but it comes encumbered with a vulnerability. Medium promotes itself as a champion of the strength side of the equation, the exchange of ideas from multiple viewpoints. Yet Medium fails to remediate, or even acknowledge, the vulnerability side of the equation, the propagation of faulty, harmful, even malignant ideas. Because of this oversight, Medium succumbs to the same ills which make typical social media a distraction and detriment to society.
One of the first defenses fans and managers of Medium will offer is that the site is not typical social media. They will claim immunity from the base ill of distracting users because there is a greater depth of engagement, and as Medium proudly proclaims, it is a source of “fresh thinking and unique perspectives.” The site is differentiated from pure social media platforms by being an interesting hybrid, embodying traits of publishing, news/information dissemination, social media and being a venue for civic discourse. Like all social media platforms, it offers unknown and unvetted thinkers a place to have their voices heard, and heavily relies on the product of those unknown thinkers. The lack of vetting provides a certain amount of anonymity, which reinforces both the strength and the vulnerability of free expression.
There is no de facto exemption from social media’s ills by virtue of granting access to new and unique ideas because of the lack of vetting, which creates an interstice where rhetorical ability can obfuscate an absence of credible ideas. Medium then compounds that typical social media fault when it errantly acclaims, “you’re in control of your reading experience. So, the stories that matter most to you are always at your fingertips.” Given enough polemics espousing views on politics, society and…