A new policy is being released by Tumblr that will prohibit blogs that promote or glorify self-harm such as anorexia, bulimia, self-mutilation and suicide. According to Zoe Fox’s article, this is a change to the platform’s Content Policy that will go live in the next week.
Tumblr strongly opposes self-harm but was having trouble between prohibiting the blogs altogether or redirecting users to support organizations such as the National Eating Disorders Association. In the proposed change, Tumblr stresses that online dialogue about these disorders is incredibly important and the prohibition is geared only for blogs that glorify or actively promote self-harm.
A Tumblr staff blog stated, “We are deeply committed to supporting and defending our users’ freedom of speech, but we do draw some limits. As a company, we’ve decided that some specific kinds of content aren’t welcome on Tumblr.”
Tumblr will also sponsor public service ads that will appear next to search results for terms such as thinspiration, proana, suicide, bulimia and anorexia. Such self-harm support groups online have already been the topic of conversation for The Oprah Winfrey Show and PBS Frontline.
When changing or implementing such a policy, the wording is imperative. Tumblr is trying to draw a line between talking about such issues and actively promoting or glorifying them. By just banning the content, they could have infringed on the right to free speech or eliminated forums for people in recovery. This type of proposed change is a good response to the issue and other social networking sites could benefit from it as well. Some of these interests include pro-ana or ‘thinspiration’ content. While most doesn’t actively promote self-harm or starvation, there is the larger issue of glorifying it. It is likely that once Tumblr starts to police these blogs, users will simply migrate elsewhere. Pinterest, a virtual pin board, has already started to see a dramatic increase in “thinspirational” imagery. The effect these images could have on people recovering from disorders or even impressionable teen users could be damaging. Policies need to be revised and take a stance against promoting such disorders or behaviors.