We've seen an increasing effort by governments around the globe to censor content they don't like. This takes many different forms, but one fairly typical one is for governments to send official looking documents to websites and webhosts demanding that certain content be taken down. Many smaller companies, often with no official policy in place on how to handle such requests, will cave and just take the content down to avoid the hassle. However, recently we've seen a growing number of sites reject such requests, unless they're accompanied by a valid court order. The latest is Medium, the increasingly popular content publishing platform.
In this case, the issue involves the government of Malaysia and the investigative journalism site Sarawak Report
, which has been writing a bunch of stories, many based on apparently leaked documents, exposing corruption in Malaysia. Last summer, the website was blocked in Malaysia
after a series of reports related to claims of $700 million magically appearing
in the Malaysian Prime Minister's personal bank account. After having its own website blocked, Sarawak also started republishing all its articles on Medium
That was last October. Apparently last week, Medium received an email from the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) demanding that one of the Sarawak stories be removed:
Of course, as you hopefully already know, one of the clearest signs of censorious thuggery is to claim that an article is "false" or defamatory in some way without ever getting into the specifics of what is false. Medium, quite rightly, responded to the MCMC by asking for more detailed evidence, showing (1) what specific statements are untrue and (2) any official judicial findings about the story.
The company received no response -- but late last week discovered that all of Medium is now blocked in Malaysia
. If that's meant to intimidate the company into taking down the article, it's not working:
Medium’s in no position to evaluate the truth of the Sarawak Report’s Medium post. We’ve received no evidence that the post violates any of our Rules, or any law. We stand by investigative journalists who publish on Medium. Until we receive an order from a court of competent jurisdiction, the post stays up.
Kudos to Medium for taking such a stand.