By Brianne Moore
The internet, and social networking sites especially, have become valuable spaces for people to form communities and share ideas and inspiration. Unfortunately, these sites can be used for ill as well as good, as we’ve seen with vicious crowds gathering to bully someone on Facebook, Twitter, and elsewhere. Some sites are starting to fight back; most recently, microblogging site Tumblr announced plans to prohibit blogs that promote self-harm, self-mutilation, eating disorders, and suicide.
“We are deeply committed to supporting and defending our users’ freedom of speech, but we do draw some limits,” the company said on its own blog. “Our Content Policy has not, until now, prohibited blogs that actively promote self-harm…These are messages and points of view that we strongly oppose, and don’t want to be hosting.”
Going forward, Tumblr plans to roll out a revised Content Policy that prohibits 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.” Tumblr also plans to start showing public service announcement-type messages in response to keyword searches typically related to self-harm, such as anorexia and thinspiration.
The policy, which Tumblr announced yesterday and hopes to implement by next week, has already started a debate. While many applaud it, some decry the move as an attack on free speech and wonder just how far Tumblr will take it—will they remove blogs that promote excessive piercings and tattoos, considering them a type of self-mutilation? Others worry that those who post self-harm blogs are doing so as a cry for help, and if they’re silenced, their struggles might go unnoticed until it’s too late.
How do you feel, readers? Should Tumblr take the blogs down, or should free speech reign supreme? Share your thoughts in the comments below.