Ch-Ch-Changes

Tumblr Planning to Police Self-Harm Blogs on Suicide, Cutting, and Eating Disorders

Search for #thinspo, get a PSA.

screen shot 2012 02 24 at 10 53 22 am Tumblr Planning to Police Self Harm Blogs on Suicide, Cutting, and Eating DisordersOn its staff blog yesterday, Tumblr revealed a new policy in works regarding self-harm blogs. “Our Content Policy has not, until now, prohibited blogs that actively promote self-harm. These typically take the form of blogs that glorify or promote anorexia, bulimia, and other eating disorders; self-mutilation; or suicide,” the company wrote.

It makes sense that a platform that often serves as the digital equivalent of your adolescent diary to try to grapple with issues of plague that demographic. (Of course, these kind of insidious mental health problems are not solely the province of the young.)  But woo boy, is this a slippery slope of where that line gets drawn, which might be why reaction to the post from users is mixed.

“We are deeply committed to supporting and defending our users’ freedom of speech, but we do draw some limits,” says the post, offering much more clear-cut examples like identity theft and spam.

Tumblr made the wise decision to offer up it proposed policy change for comment. Along with the following language change, the company plans on showing a PSA for keywords that go with pro-self-harm blogs, like anorexia, thinspo, proana, and thinspiration. (Sorry, legitimate diet blogs who thought #thinspo was just a cute abbrevs!)

1. Implement a new policy against pro-self-harm blogs. Here’s draft language we are planning to add to our Content Policy:

Active Promotion of Self-Harm. Don’t post 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. 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’s a wide gulf between those two instances and Tumblr is giving blogs a grace period to edit or download offensive content.

It’s worth nothing that Tumblr has not taken as proactive a step against child pornography. Members have reported offenders in the past and successfully gotten sites deleted, but some members still post about seeing it in their feed. Then, of course, there’s the you-to-do-yourself problem. Tumblr’s content policy states: “Sexually Explicit Video. Accounts that use Tumblr’s Video Upload feature to regularly upload and host sexually explicit or pornographic material will be suspended.” Earlier this month, as Gawker noted, after “six years and a couple scandals” Reditt officially banned child porn.

For Tumblr, however, the new focus on self-harm, might not be as relevant. Says Jezebel, “Many of the thinspo blogs Tumblr so hoped to eradicate, meanwhile, have migrated to Pinterest. Sigh.”

Follow Nitasha Tiku on Twitter or via RSS. ntiku@observer.com