I don’t know whether I am more mad than I am sad. Tumblr was the last bastion of free speech and yet they choose to succumb to the same lunacy Frank Zappa was fighting decades ago.
With this highly subjective and arbitrary policy in place I have to constantly fear that the reason why I might not find certain articles any more is not because the search does not function, but because it’s been found in violation of some social engineer’s moral code.
People who support such idiotic measures tend to think that they are above any suspicion - and often, their posts are so bland and conformist that this is sadly true - but the fact is, your support or opposition to such a measure will not reduce chances that you yourself might fall victim to demented censorship. After all, you cannot assume that staff indulging in censorship are of a uniform mind and views.
Are you a libertarian, anarchist, emo, goth, punk, body modification enthusiast or any other “fringe subculture”? Well, you are actively promoting antisocial behaviour which ultimately results in self-harm. Are you pro-choice? Abortion often endangers a mother’s life and results in psychological scars and PTSD that may lead to self-harm. Are you pro-life? Carrying an unwanted pregnancy to term results in a fetus with lower chances of survival and an unhappy mother more likely to harm herself and the baby.
No matter what criterion is used for censorship and how the policy is formulated, it can always be rationalized / expanded / extended / applied arbitrarily to exclude speech that the censor dislikes.
Last Thursday, we posted a draft of a new policy against blogs that actively promote self-harm, along with some PSA-style language to appear next to searches associated with self-injury. The reaction was overwhelming. The post itself provoked more than 25,000 likes, reblogs, and replies; and more than 2,500 of you sent in comments by email. Thank you.
By far, the most common comment was some variation on this:This is really great, but what about people who just talk about it? They aren’t promoting it in any way, but like some of us just express ourselves through posting about it. I don’t promote self-harm or eating disorders or anything, but I do talk about my experiences with these things. Do those count as something that’s going to be banned?
That’s an important concern, so we want to be totally clear: 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. We absolutely want Tumblr to be a place where people struggling with these behaviors can find solace, community, dialog, understanding, and hope.
We will apply this policy on a blog-by-blog basis. There won’t be any wholesale suspension based on tags or text. We’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, but, thanks to the tireless efforts of our amazing Support team, we will do our best.
With the benefit of all your input, we’ve written a new draft of this policy, changing some wording and adding some clarifying language: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.
In addition, we got some helpful suggestions from the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) to improve the language that we’ll start showing alongside searches for tags associated with the promotion of self-harm, such as “pro-ana”, “pro-mia”, “thinspiration” and “thinspo”. Here’s an example of the revised language: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.
We’re working with other health organizations to help us craft similar language around pro-cutting and pro-suicide search terms.
After the jump, we’ve pulled out several thoughtful messages from the community on both sides of this issue:
For those who think like me, what free platforms are left out there?