Last week, Tumblr announced a new policy that drew some mixed responses, and now they’ve made some clarifications in the hopes of making things clearer to their millions of users.
The new policy will ban so called “self-harm” blogs, defined as those that advocate or glorify things like anorexia, bulimia, self-mutilation, and suicide. Blogs that would fall into this category, for example, are thinspo blog that provide images to help people achieve certain weight goals. Many of the “self-harm” blogs on Tumblr offer advice on these controversial topics.
That announcement turned out to be rather controversial, as many Tumblr users cried censorship and some debated whether Tumblr had any business regulating things that some people think is a life choice.
Another point of contention concerned where the line’s going to be drawn. What about blogs that talk about issues like anorexia or suicide? Would those be banned too? Tumblr has clarified their policy to say that you can talk about it, just don’t promote it:
While we won’t allow blogs dedicated to triggering self-harm, we will not act against blogs engaged in discussion, support, encouragement, and documenting the experiences of those dealing with difficult conditions like anorexia, bulimia, and other forms of self-injury.
Of course, the next logical question centers on how the Tumblr staff is going to be able to keep up with this and make the right judgement calls on particular blogs. They say that they are going to enforce the new policy on a “blog-by-blog basis,” but also warn that they’re “not under the illusion that it will be easy to draw the line between blogs that are intended to trigger self-harm and those that support sufferers and build community.”
Here’s the complete amended policy:
Promotion and Glorification of Self-Harm. Don’t post content that actively promotes or glorifies self-harm. This includes content that urges or encourages readers to cut or injure themselves; embrace anorexia, bulimia, or other eating disorders; or commit suicide rather than, e.g., seeking counseling or treatment, or joining together in supportive conversation with those suffering or recovering from depression or other conditions. Dialogue about these behaviors is incredibly important and online communities can be extraordinarily helpful to people struggling with these difficult conditions. We aim to sustain Tumblr as a place that facilitates awareness, support and recovery, and to remove only those blogs that cross the line into active promotion or glorification of self-harm.
Along with regulating these self-harm blogs, Tumblr is also going to start displaying messages alongside searches for tags promoting self-harm like “pro-ana” and “thinspiration.” Here’s an example of what those messages will look like (in part):
Eating disorders are not lifestyle choices, they are mental disorders that when left untreated, can cause serious health problems, and at their most severe can even be life-threatening. For treatment referrals, information and support, please contact the National Eating Disorders Association’s Helpline at 1-800-931-2237 or www.nationaleatingdisorders.org.
Smart, responsible decision by Tumblr or first step down a slippery slope to censorship? Let us know what you think in the comments.