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Medium cracks down on cyberbullying in rules update

Blog publishing platform joins growing list of sites banning threats, harassment and revenge porn.

Medium announces new rules to curb abusive behavior. Nicole Cozma/CNET

Blog publishing platform Medium has updated its rules to prohibit activity intended to harass other users, the latest Internet community to crack down on abusive behavior.

The social publishing site announced new rules Monday that prohibit public shaming, the posting of revenge porn, or publishing private or confidential information intended to harass other users. The new rules are intended to foster an environment where users feel comfortable expressing themselves online without fear of being intimidated by other users, the publishing platform explained in an unsigned blog post.

"We want everyone to feel at home on Medium. This doesn't mean you're free from having your views challenged or your ideas re-characterized," the blog post explains. "But some speech shuts down more expression than it opens up, by causing silence, retreat, isolation, or intimidation. No one should feel any less than who they are from spending time here. And that's where we decided to draw the line."

Harassment, while not a new occurrence on the social network, has taken a more public spotlight. Robin Williams' death last summer led some Twitter users to send vicious messages to his daughter, prompting her to delete the app from her phone. That same month, Anita Sarkeesian, an academic highlighting how women are portrayed in video games, was so disturbed by the tweets she received that she fled her home for fear of safety.

Medium, which was founded by Twitter co-founders Evan Williams and Biz Stone, revealed in January it had more than 200 million registered users. Its rules now prohibit threats of violence against anyone and use of racial slurs, noting that the content's context will be taken into account.

The site also said it would not tolerate bullying or harassing behavior, specifically banning images intended to shame specific users; posting of communications without the permission of those party to the communications; publishing non-public personal information for the purpose of harassment or blackmail; and repeated insults.

Medium's new rules also prohibit the posting of intimate or explicit images taken or posted without the subject's explicit consent, a practice known as revenge porn. Typically, the revealing images and personal information have been posted online by angry former lovers looking to cause pain and suffering.

With its rules update, Medium joins a growing list of Internet communities trying to strike a balance that encourages freedom of speech while clamping down on abusive behavior that chases away users.

Less than two weeks ago, popular user-curated news site Reddit laid out a set of new policies that restrict what users can post on the site, prohibiting essentially the same behavior that Medium is targeting. In March, Twitter said it would ban users posting revenge porn or engaging in harassment after then-CEO Dick Costolo conceded that trolling behavior was driving away its core users.

"We want Medium's rules to be like the most human and practical kinds of rules -- rules of hospitality, rules of the road, golden rules," the blog post said. "They show what we think it means for our guests to treat each other civilly, at least, and admirably, if possible."