The Medium problem

Founded in 2012 by Twitter co-founder Evan Williams, Medium is now a fashionable internet address for politicians, celebrities, businesses and more. Users praise it for allowing them to focus on content creation without having to manage the back end of their website, and a symbiotic relationship with Twitter gives any user of that service an instant audience on Medium. This convenience comes with a price, however, especially to those focused in social justice or tech criticism: feeding, enabling and providing cover for the same devils they profess to fight.

Just as Jack was able to secure both his and Twitter’s white-savior status with one well-orchestrated trip to Ferguson, Williams has leveraged a roster of high-profile names from social justice and tech criticism into a reputation for bringing “civility to the internet.” This reputation for liberal thought and civility masks a tech company every bit as committed to misogyny, white supremacy, fascism and settler colonialism as its fellow tech kin. Medium can point to any number of beloved-and-trusted activists/orgs that it centers and promotes and say, “Look, ______ uses our service and praises us. We can’t be that bad, right?”

Yes they can. Because Medium is not only using its growing user base and audience to construct an image of charity and altruism; it’s also using them to generate revenue. Lots of it. Medium has thrived while the rest of the tech industry struggles to find new funding, usually valued around $500 million. Williams uses this growing fortune to impact politics in San Francisco, and not in a good way. His $150 million donation to Progress San Francisco funded the most neoliberal candidates San Francisco’s ballot; the candidates most friendly to tech, developers, police and survival of the richest. These are politicians that will support policies of gentrification, police terror and cronyism at every level. And by bringing their brand and audience to Medium, these are the same policies supported by alleged social-justice types everywhere, because their use and support of the platform feeds a monster that consumes oppressed and vulnerable people in San Francisco and elsewhere every single day. Whatever good their platforms may cause is immediately countered by allowing that platform to be hosted by, and bring succor to, the very people they claim to organize against. The dissonance is overwhelming.

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