Tumblr tackles pro-anorexia and suicide blogs

"We are deeply committed to supporting and defending our users' freedom of speech, but we do draw some limits," says the microblogging site.

A quick search on Tumblr looking for tags related to eating disorders can launch a user into a world of self-harm blogs with posts like "keep calm and stop eating," "mind over matter and I won't get fatter," and "my life changed forever when I choose not to eat."

However, as of next week, most likely none of these posts will show up on the microblogging service.

Tumblr announced today that it was planning to implement a new policy banning pro-self-harm blogs. In addition, it will show public service warnings when people search for tags such as "anorexia," "bulimia," "thinspiration," and "purging." The site will also ban blogs that glorify or promote suicide and self-mutilation.

"One of the great things about Tumblr is that people use it for just about every conceivable kind of expression," wrote Tumblr in a blog post today. "People being people, though, that means that Tumblr sometimes gets used for things that are just wrong."

This is a big deal because Tumblr serves a lot of traffic --it's visited by more than 120 million unique users each month and has more than 15 billion monthly pageviews. Being the first major social-networking site to tackle this dilemma might help it set the standard for other sites.

It seems that Tumblr grappled with making this decision but ultimately decided it was the right thing to do. "We are deeply committed to supporting and defending our users' freedom of speech, but we do draw some limits," reads the blog post. "Our Content Policy has not, until now, prohibited blogs that actively promote self-harm... These are messages and points of view that we strongly oppose, and don't want to be hosting."

Tumblr expressly points out that the ban will only affect blogs that clearly glorify self-harm. Users who write joking posts like "I need to starve myself after Thanksgiving" or "I want to kill myself after a humiliating date" are fine.

About the author

Dara Kerr, a freelance journalist based in the Bay Area, is fascinated by robots, supercomputers and Internet memes. When not writing about technology and modernity, she likes to travel to far-off countries.

 

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