Inside Medium: an attempt to bring civility to the internet

"Last month, a story written in the Sarawak Report - one such publication hosted on Medium - alleged corruption involving the Malaysian prime minister.

After Medium's legal team refused to remove the article in question, the Malaysian government forced at least some internet service providers to block the entire Medium network.

"The post stays up," wrote Medium's legal team.

But other posts do come down.

It's a "cat and mouse" game, says Medium lawyer Alex Feerst - one where the company must keep on top of large amounts of spam and other nefarious posts.

Medium has started to develop machine-learning tools to alleviate some of the workload from a safety team that consists of just five people - two of them part-time.

What a machine can't determine, though, is what constitutes harassment. Here the team walks an almost impossible tightrope, one which Twitter already seems to be falling off as high-profile users flee.

"If someone feels that they have been a victim of something, and wants to come on Medium and expose that story, that has implications for the people that they name," explains Sarah Agudo, Medium's head of legal.

"We aren't in a position to be arbiters of what's the truth and what's right or not."

Feerst says the team discusses at length the implications of maintaining Medium as a "safe space" - a consequence of an internet that is changing.

"There was an era when people did the bare minimum and just said 'we're not taking it down, it all stays up'. That era in some ways is over, because doing the bare minimum is less than we're going to do.

"We are going to take things down that are unsafe, that are hate speech, that are harassment. It's not a legal obligation, it's an obligation to the ecosystem of the site."

But there's one massively important principle, Feerst stresses.

"You shouldn't necessarily be kept safe from other people challenging your ideas.""