Harrison Weber is TNW's Features Editor in NYC. Part writer, part designer. Stay in touch: Twitter @harrisonweber, Google+ and Email. Harrison Weber is TNW's Features Editor in NYC. Part writer, part designer. Stay in touch: Twitter @harrisonweber, Google+ and Email.
Tumblr’s massive growth over the past few years means that it’s being used for nearly everything imaginable. From the awesome blogs we highlight every Tumblr Tuesday to explicit content and heaps of Jonny Depp fan pages. Somewhere in-between this mass of rage comics and pornography lies a heap of blogs that glorify and promote eating disorders and self-mutilation.
After much deliberation, Tumblr has just officially announced it will ban such self-harm blogs, setting a moral compass for the exploding startup.
As a company, Tumblr says it’s “deeply committed to supporting and defending our users’ freedom of speech, but we do draw some limits.” The startup states that it’s planning to release a new, revised Content Policy in the very near future, and is looking to the community for feedback.
Tumblr’s decision, via the company blog:
1. Implement a new policy against pro-self-harm blogs.
Don’t post content that actively promotes or glorifies self-injury or self-harm. This includes content that urges or encourages readers to cut or mutilate themselves; embrace anorexia, bulimia, or other eating disorders; or commit suicide rather than, e.g., seek counseling or treatment for depression or other disorders. Online dialogue about these acts and conditions is incredibly important; this prohibition is intended to reach only those blogs that cross the line into active promotion or glorification. For example, joking that you need to starve yourself after Thanksgiving or that you wanted to kill yourself after a humiliating date is fine, but recommending techniques for self-starvation or self-mutilation is not.
We aim to begin implementing this policy next week. Of course, we will allow any affected blogs a grace period in which to edit or download your content.
2. Start showing PSAs on search results for related keywords.
In addition, we plan to start posting “public service announcement”-style language whenever users search for tags that typically go along with pro-self-harm blogs. For example, when a user searches for tags like “anorexia”, “anorexic”, “bulimia”, “bulimic”, “thinspiration”, “thinspo”, “proana”, “purge”, “purging”, etc., we would show PSA language like:
Eating disorders can cause serious health problems, and at their most severe can even be life-threatening. Please contact the [resource organization] at [helpline number] or [website].
Though this problem has been lingering for a while now, it’s wise that Tumblr has decided to step up. Since the startup has such a varied audience in terms of age, Tumblr definitely needs to take responsibility for its younger users — even if it means tough decisions like these.
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