In this #MeToo era Medium’s decision harms victims of cult abuse and puts women at risk of being sexually assaulted. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org to voice your opinion. Medium.com is founded by Twitter co-founder Evan Williams.
After the publication of an in-depth expose about Alex Vartman’s international sex cult called “The New Tantra,” the online blogging platform Medium.com has banned me and removed all of my articles from the web. The story sent shockwaves as it documented years of sexual abuse, manipulation and highly disturbing cultic activity. Some former members stated in the article that there was a strong demonic presence in the group.
As the most prominent journalist in the world exposing cults, gurus and sexual abuse in the tantric world the loss of my articles on Medium is a huge blow to the women who stand to suffer from their continued abuse. It has allowed numerous alleged rapists, sexual abusers and cult leaders to escape public scrutiny.
My articles were averaging about 30,000 views a month from searches alone. That’s tens of thousands of people being made aware of dangerous cults and gurus. And when a new story was published that number could rise to 100,000+ a month. My article on Bentinho Massaro “Tech Bro Guru” got 200,000 views in a few weeks and became a model in modern cult exposing. In the last year alone my articles had almost 1 million views. Coverage of my stories have appeared in front page articles on The Guardian, The Daily Mail, The New Zealand Herald, the CBC and CNN. In total over 70 articles worldwide have been written in 35 countries based on my stories. Barcroft Media produced a short documentary and Jezebel and VICE are currently working on short documentaries based on my articles.
On December 10th I received an email saying that my Alex Vartman expose was removed because “Medium’s Rules don’t allow posts that name specific individuals in this manner.” I was confused because every article I’ve published on Medium.com is about an individual. They’ve reviewed and approved many of them in the past because almost every article I write gets a flood of complaints from the followers of the person I’m writing about and the accused. I simply wanted to know why Medium banned my Alex Vartman article and not the others and there was no answer. They’ve approved articles of mine that are about sexually abusive gurus, rapists and cult leaders. On one occasion they even sent a lengthy email to the lawyer of one “individual” I wrote about who had threatened to sue Medium.com and myself. It read in part:
“The claims include defamation, copyright infringement, and unauthorized processing of personal data. As an initial matter, there is no valid claim for defamation against Medium. Medium is an open publishing platform that allows users to post what they want, just as someone can post their own work on Twitter or Facebook. Medium had no part in the creation of the post. As a platform, we do not mediate content between users. In instances such as this one, Section 5 of the 2013 UK Defamation Act shields online intermediaries, like Medium, from defamation claims arising from third-party content. Similarly, under U.S. law, Medium is protected by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Where, as here, the author of the post is easily identifiable, any claim for defamation must be brought against that individual.
Your client’s view that Medium has somehow engaged in unauthorized processing of his personal data is similarly mistaken. Under Section 2, para. 13 of the UK Data Protection Act (2018), processing by online intermediaries is protected where it is undertaken for the purposes of journalism regarding matters of public interest. Further, Art. 17, Section 3 of the GDPR allows for processing of data where it is necessary to the exercise of freedom of expression and information.”
So, not only did Medium not remove my post for being about an “individual” but they took the time to have their legal team respond in my defense.
When I first published my expose on Bentinho Massaro I got an email from Medium saying that they had read my post and determined it was in violation of of their policies because it included audio recordings I had captured undercover without the other parties permission. No problem. I removed the recordings and the article was allowed to stay. They were fully aware of this post about an “individual.”
Most recently I wrote an article about tantra teacher TJ Bartel who had been accused of raping women during healing sessions. TJ’s assistant told me they contacted Medium to protest. I also emailed Medium to ask them to not remove the post. They were fully aware of my article that contained graphic allegations of rape and sexual abuse against an “individual.” The article was allowed to remain. This was just a few months ago.
Understandably, I had a simple question for Medium: “Why have all of my previous articles been allowed to stay but not my article about Alex Vartman’s “The New Tantra?” Radio silence. I never got an answer.
Next thing I know my entire account is shut down.
One of the reasons they cited for shutting my account down now was copyright violations of images. Hmm. That seems to be a convenient excuse. Yes, I did have a few DMCA copyright complaints about some images. But on October 25th Tobias from Medium asked “do you own the copyright to the image that is now the post?” I had edited it out to exclude the copyrighted image of the woman who filed the complaint but I still didn’t “own” the copyright to the whole image. I told him. I said, “I don’t own the copyright to the image.” He didn’t care. He didn’t ask me to change it. He allowed the post to stay. And he certainly didn’t cancel my account. I even told him I was confused as to how The Guardian and The Daily mail can use images from Facebook without owning the copyright. No response.
Medium also referred to the inclusion of private communications in my stories as a reason for banning me. Again, to my knowledge, that happened one time with the Bentinho Massaro story and I removed it when they said it was against their policy. If it happened another time I would have also immediately removed it upon being warned so as to prevent the article from coming down.
They also said there have been “Multiple instances of unverified and uncorroborated claims against individuals in your posts.” Hmm. That’s a very vague. Technically that is true, but that is true of every rape account that is reported on. This is what the abusers I write about say, it’s just all unverified lies. I’m not sure how I can prove it. I’ve only written about people who have many accusers–not just one. Often the stories include 8 or more women who have come forward. That is how I avoid the “he said/she said” dynamic of one individual fabricating something. I follow Medium’s best practices of journalism.
So, again, Medium had full knowledge of many of my articles about “individuals”–including ones about rape, sexual abuse and cults. These all had numerous “unsubstantiated” and “unverified” claims of rape, sexual assault and abuse. They allowed them to stay online. They defended an article of mine about an “individual” against a lawsuit threat. I told Medium that I did not own the copyright to an image in a post when they asked. They didn’t care. They’ve reviewed and approved my Bentinho Massaro article which had over a dozen images that were obviously not my content.
Then, one day after I published a story about Alex Vartman’s “The New Tantra” sex cult my entire account is shut down. All of a sudden the copyright image violation that Tobias didn’t care about is the reason. All of a sudden Medium doesn’t allow stories about “individuals.” All of a sudden the reports in my journalistic stories that they had read previously were a problem because they were “unsubstantiated.” Medium can shut you down for whatever reason they want. And they can use any excuse they want to do so.
Earlier in the day before Medium shut down my account I launched this platform, The Guru. My articles will have a permanent home here. Yet, in the sake of the public interest Medium should restore my account under the agreement I no longer post there. Tens of thousands of people are being denied crucial information about these dangerous predators.
My question still remains to Medium and it’s founder Evan Williams: “Why had all of my previous articles been allowed to stay but not my article about Alex Vartman’s “The New Tantra?”