Tumblr Censors Self-Harm Blogs and Educates Users Who Search for “Thinspiration”

Recently, Reddit announced that despite their adamant stance towards free speech, they would be banning sites that had obscene content relating to children.  Possibly taking a cue from that move, Tumblr has decided to ban some content on their site, specifically that related to self harm.  In a post on their blog, they mention that sometimes “Tumblr gets used for things that are just wrong.”  This underscores the responsibility that comes with a public, free social networking service — at some point you need to monitor content to maintain the nature of the site.

In a smart move, the blog is only pointing out what sorts of additions they are going to make, and are asking users to provide feedback if they so desire.  This will give users time to debate the changes.

Tumblr will be changing two elements of  the site.

The first is their new policy to ban blogs that have “content that actively promotes or glorifies self-injury or self-harm.”  Specifically, some of these blogs suggest people do this instead of seeking counselling or treatment for depression.  The second that Tumblr steps into this area, though, they have to be able to monitor the content appropriately and not ban the wrong kinds of sites.  In their blog post they immediately point out that “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.”

Tumblr will allow any sites that may have such content a few weeks to remove that content.

The second feature is that they will start showing public service announcements on some searches.  The list of search terms and the message is broader than would be expected.

The terms are ones like “anorexia”, “anorexic”, “bulimia”, “bulimic”, “thinspiration”, “thinspo”, “proana”, “purge”, “purging”, and Tumblr will show this message:

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].

This is a bold step by the blog, and certainly some users may feel that this is impeding the freedom they used to enjoy at Tumblr.  I know I’ve seen tons of blogs about “Thinspiration” on Pinterest that show unhealthy and many times doctored images as inspiration.  It must have taken some strong force of will over at Tumblr to make this decision, but it’s a noble decision with a good cause and hopefully other sites do the same.

Image: Alexandra Thompson via Shutterstock

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