Partner Program Fraud Update — November 2, 2023

The Medium Blog
Published in
3 min readNov 2, 2023

Some Partner Program authors may see a bonus applied to their October earnings dashboard. If you are eligible, you will see the bonus in the October earnings period, as the line item “October’s Partner Program Bonus.”

This is a one-time correction for earnings that were lost due to a fraud event. The earnings for the impacted time period have been recalculated, and will be included with your November 6th Partner Program payment.

Between September 18th and October 4th, a group of approximately 20 author and 600 member accounts were able to exploit a bug in the Partner Program earnings calculation, and fraudulently generate a disproportionate amount of earnings. This was a self-contained group of accounts engaging primarily with themselves, and not with any other Partner Program writers.

Every day, there is a set “pool” of money, from which all paywalled posts are paid. With their focused engagement, the fraudsters drained a disproportionate amount of money out of the daily pools, which made everyone’s earnings go down. Even if you weren’t engaging with the fraudsters, their activities impacted your earnings, because there was less daily money to be split by everyone else.

Many of you noticed this, and contacted us when you noticed lower value for your normal engagement. We appreciate your diligence in watching the system, and letting us know when you see something wrong.

Once we became aware of the bug and the associated fraud, we took the following steps:

  • The fraudulent accounts were identified and suspended prior to the September payment.
  • The suspension prevented that money from being sent to the fraudsters’ Stripe accounts. Medium did not lose the money.
  • The money was returned to the pool.
  • The bug was fixed. Going forward, any particular member’s engagement can’t result in author earnings that greatly exceed the cost of their contributed membership.
  • The value of engagement on your stories has returned to pre-fraud levels, based on the August earnings calculation update. While there were some adjustments to the calculation, such as reducing the boost multiplier and increasing the value of reading time, there was no overall reduction in earnings value. If you are still seeing reduced earnings, please see our update regarding our push towards rewarding quality writing only.
  • We have updated our systems to more quickly detect when people are trying to game the earnings algorithm, and take quicker action.

We have identified September 18th through October 4th, 2023 as the period during which the bug was exploited, and the daily pools were reduced. We re-ran the earnings calculation for every post that earned during that time, with full payment pools.

We took the difference between what your post(s) should have earned and the amount in your story stats pages for that period, and combined it all into a single amount (the “Partner Program Bonus”) for the impacted days. Because of the large volume of impacted posts, we are not able to provide granular details of which your posts were impacted, and how much they should have earned.

We are extremely sorry this happened, and have taken immediate action to improve these systems going forward.

We apologize for the confusion, our lack of communication, transparency, and clarity around the issue, and for your patience while we worked to identify, stop, and repair the problem.

If you feel your earnings are still low, you can read more about the type of writing that is being rewarded in the October Partner Program update. If you have questions, post them as responses on this post.