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3 min read

Let’s Talk About Plagiarism and Civility

On making decisions

Topics like plagiarism and civility have been vigorously discussed on Medium since we started. They’re important subjects: These conversations will, and should, always be happening here. They’ve surfaced again in the last week, and I want to talk about what happened, how we responded, and where we plan to go from here.

First, an overview of what happened: Someone wrote a post that some people regarded as plagiarism that should be taken down. Others believed (and we at Medium concluded) it was a parody and therefore not plagiarism (or copyright infringement). The post remains up. The original poster, a prolific writer on Medium, deactivated her account, which is something we never want (and, on a personal level, makes me sad). The subsequent discussion sparked by what took place has focused on the specific question of plagiarism — when a person’s words can be reused, for example as a parody, and when that can be prevented. But there is another conversation going on about civility that is at the core of Medium’s community, and what should be done when that level of civility is compromised.

I know this is a very sensitive subject. We care. (My whole career, in many ways, is driven by these issues.) The Trust & Safety team, of which I am a part, has talked about this at length and worked hard to make a fair and reasoned decision. We are balancing the desire for transparency and wanting to talk about what’s happened forthrightly while also being constrained by the need to respect the privacy of everyone involved.

To respect both privacy to individuals and our desire to be transparent, I’m declining to discuss the specifics of last week’s issue (and I will continue to do this if any similar issues arise in the future). That being said, I want to make the promise to you: This and every situation reported to us is addressed personally by our Trust & Safety team. We read and investigate every complaint, argue over the hard ones, and do what we believe is fairest to the people involved and right for the health of the platform.

We take bullying and harassment seriously and respond to everyone who writes in. If you see a post that might be in violation of our terms of service or rules on the site, please flag it using the report tool in the post. If you ever have a question or concern, reach out to yourfriends.medium.com. In addition, you can block a user which will remove their response from your story page (though it will still appear on that author’s profile). You can also hide all responses on a story. The Help Center has all the details on how to use the tool and exactly what it does.

These issues are part of an evolving conversation that we will continue to have, probably for as long as Medium exists. We’ll keep working to address complaints as fairly and open-mindedly as we can. And now, here’s the part where I ask to hear your thoughts and questions about this (or any other) topic and welcome this space as a place to continue the conversation.

Thank you for reading, for writing, and for being part of Medium.

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elizabeth tobey

elizabeth tobey

East coaster with a secret SF love affair. I enjoy juxtaposing things. Also: Cheese and tiny dachshunds.

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