Hey, thanks for asking. First, there are a few basic things to understand about how everything is set up. We have Write.as, the entire platform, and Read Write.as, our smaller community / writing showcase. Our rules are different for each, because of how readers discover content on each section of the site.
The Write.as Platform Guidelines cover our entire, base blogging platform. You’re responsible for how people get to your blog, so in general, we’re very relaxed about what you discuss there. As long as you aren’t actively harming our infrastructure (e.g. with spam or automated posts), or purely deceiving people (e.g. with Bitcoin scams), then you’re fine discussing whatever you want (more on this below).
The Read Write.as Community Guidelines are more strict, because Read Write.as is the face of the community of writers here. Besides showcasing the character of our platform for new users, it also provides an instant audience for anyone who publishes there. So we need to protect it from writing that makes the community look bad / unwelcoming, as well as purely commercial content that doesn’t give anything to the community (i.e. cheap advertising).
So to answer your specific questions:
Our guiding principle is that true freedom of expression can’t exist without personal privacy. As we stand for privacy, we also stand for the free expression that it enables. We believe people need a place to discuss non-mainstream ideas, and we hope to enable that on Write.as. So that’s why we’re generally lenient when it comes to the entire platform.
As for the “malicious speech” guideline for the general platform, it was left relatively vague so that we can handle a range of issues as they come up. Again, generally, we err on the side of freedom to express yourself in good faith. We give trust and assume good intent first, until it’s proven that this is undeserved. This has worked out for us for over the past four years. But we ultimately have to be able to limit the most egregious content that harms our platform or reputation, and that of others. Language changes between cultures and over time; we need to be able to easily adjust to that.
Still, generally, most people won’t have to worry about this – and as a customer, we’ll always work with you before making any rash decisions (more on this below).
As for the public community / Read Write.as, we’re more strict. In this realm, we become more of social space than the broadcast-only environment of Write.as. So we expect people to behave as they would offline and be respectful of other people, no matter how “right” their well-reasoned arguments are. Freedom of speech isn’t an excuse for being an asshole.
To sum it up, if you’re concerned about “censorship,” do not make your blog Public. This way, it won’t be subject to our more strict community guidelines.
A note about economics
For the problems with the platforms you mentioned, it’s important to realize that these services are all run by private commercial interests. This is somehow left out of most conversations today, and the media does a lot of hand-waving around this, so I’ll be plain:
Some of these platforms’ decisions might have been made on principle, but the more-likely driver was an economic calculation – e.g. the ad revenue you get from having a controversial figure on your platform doesn’t make up for the load of bad press you get by keeping them there. Bad press means fewer active users, means fewer “eyeballs” on ads, means lower ad prices, means an unattractive place to advertise, means fewer actual customers, means no more business.
For platforms like Medium that are investor-backed, as a writer you’re not the customer, but a source of free writing that they can use to make their own platform more valuable. If you aren’t furthering their goals, they lose nothing by kicking you off. Don’t attribute to malice what can be explained by money.
Of course, we’re also a commercial entity. But where we differ is in our economic incentives. Since you pay us to write here, we work to keep you happy, rather than advertisers or investors. That means we have the freedom to lead with our principles, and indeed it’s also good for us economically, as it attracts more customers who value those principles, which means we get to keep building this thing, which means you get a product you enjoy, and so on. Our business model means that if issues arise, we want to work something out before even considering kicking you off.
Again, you’re encouraged to run a company blog, do content marketing, commercial activity, etc. on Write.as (i.e. the Platform Guidelines). There’s no limitation for commercial activity there.
We draw the line at Read Write.as (i.e. the Community Guidelines / Public blog setting), because we want it to remain a non-commercial space where people can safely read without being advertised at, or sold to. This is a sacred place for us, and one of our most stringent guidelines. Please use Write.as for your commercial blog, but do not leverage Read Write.as for commercial purposes, cheap advertising, etc.
This “Deceptive or link-only posts” guideline is mostly directed at a certain category of users on Write.as that most people won’t fall under. Our main concern is with cryptocurrency scams, phishing posts, links to malware and spyware, posts that have no content in them besides a link, etc.
If you’re a legitimate user invested in the platform, you are free to include affiliate links, using your judgement on whether or not to disclose them. We won’t take any action on your post(s) or blog(s) for this kind of use. (I agree, this should be clarified in the guidelines.)
I hope that helps! Let me know if anything is still unclear.