Social blog platform Tumblr announced Thursday that it would be banning blogs that “actively promote self-harm.” This includes “blogs that glorify or promote anorexia, bulimia, and other eating disorders; self-mutilation; or suicide.”
Blogs of this nature have been raging wide and deep on the Internet, and Tumblr is by far a major home for these communities. The topic’s popularity on Tumblr is facilitated by the easy photo-sharing nature of the site and the reblog feature, as well as the easiness with which such blogs can be found. While this pro-eating disorder material was once relegated to online forums and underground blogs, Tumblr easily lets users search for tags like “anorexia” or “thinspo” to find likeminded users to fuel their illnesses or insecurities.
In their staff blog, Tumblr explains that they toyed with whether to fully prohibit such blogs, “as a statement against the very ideas of self-harm they are advancing,” or to let them stay up, but accompanied by a public service warning to warn users of the content and offer contact information for helplines.
In the end, they decided that “sometimes Tumblr gets used for things that are just wrong.” The new content policy will include language prohibiting any content that promotes or glorifies this material of self-harm. However, they note, the staff will differentiate between posts that are in jest and those that are serious:
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.
There will be a “grace period” for affected blogs to edit their content, but the policy changes will go into effect next week. Tumblr will also post PSA-style warnings when users search tags that are popular with these blog: “anorexia, “bulimia,” “eating disorder.” The eating disorder community also has its own language and terms that they’ll be looking out for, like “pro-ana,” “mia,” purging,” thinspiration,” “thinspo,” and more.
Policing all these blogs is no doubt going to cause some uproar among a certain cross-section of its users, or just prompt a quick migration to yet another platform; Jezebel points out that many blogs have moved over to Pinterest. The distinction between healthy weight loss or fitness blogs and unhealthy ones might be murky territory for a while, and some users are likely stressed about being unfairly affected. Tumblr says they’re open to discussing ways to account for these issues.
For a site that gets more than 15 billion monthly pageviews, it’s both admirable and responsible of Tumblr to be taking this action — though certain users may disagree.
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