Tumblr follow Pinterest in move to ban harmful content from their platforms

Tumblr follow Pinterest in move to ban harmful content from their platforms

By Nick Watts

Tumblr, a blogging platform based in the US has made a move to ban all content relating to eating disorders, self-harm and suicide from their platform.

The platform has gained a reputation for being one of the main places on the web for the hosting of pro anorexia and self-harm blogs, used largely by younger people, creating networks of triggering content which is openly accessibly to anyone who searches for it. The move has angered some people who post this content of the platform and a petition was created which received hundreds of signatures saying that for them posting this kind of content is an accurate depiction of how they feel and to them it is a form of therapy.

The move follows lobbying by and consultation with the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) in the United States. The move will also include signposting for people who search for, or try to post this kind of content to sites where they can seek support and advice for their difficulties. In a statement made by Tumblr they acknowledge the potential damage content like this can do, saying;

"There are messages and points of view that we strongly oppose and don't want to be hosting."

The vice president of Tumblr, Marc LaFountain commented that they wish to respect freedom of speech but felt that it was important to protect young people who use the site. He went on to say “the majority of feedback on the ban has been positive”

There was a question of how far moderation would go, what would be considered as “pro” and what is simply venting and support. In a posting on their website Tumblr told their users;

"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."

Eating disorder and mental health campaigners this side of the atlantic have also welcomed the move, Matthew Taylor from the UK based charity Mind commented;

“Websites that promote self harming and eating disorders can be hugely damaging. They are likely to be counterproductive and possibly dangerous to someone in a crisis. Self harming and eating disorders are serious problems so Tumblr is to be applauded for banning blogs that promote them and instead directing people to places they can seek support.”

The move by Tumblr comes only a few days after another social networking site, Pinterest changed its terms and conditions to prohibit people from posting content which promotes ill health, vowing further to remove any existing content from their servers. Last week Claire Mysko from the NEDA spoke about the surge of pro anorexic websites to the women’s blog Jezebel in particular talking about Pinterest, a visual networking site which was particularly attracting people suffering from eating disorders. She told Jezebel that users were turning to the site for validation but “finding it in a very dangerous and destructive way”.

Most other social networking sites already have policy protecting users from this kind of content, such as Youtube and Facebook, yet content of this nature is still rife on both platforms, questioning the effectiveness of these policies. Twitter on the other hand has no specific terms on dangerous or unsuitable content, but users can report content they find offensive.

For my personal view on this story you can see my opinion piece in the Huffington Post.        

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