Tumblr users: Imagine how much time you spend on the site, scrolling through a variety of pictures, quotes, gifs, text, etc. usually for your own daily enjoyment. Now, imagine you’re a teenager, or maybe just feeling insecure, and maybe some nasty person called you “fat.” Or “gross.” Or even say you should “kill yourself.” And you go home to find your refuge, Tumblr, with its cat pictures, movie stills … and some blogs espousing the perks of being anorexic or cutting yourself. Sites like that are all over the internet, but soon, they’ll be gone from Tumblr. Because they will be banned, sparing some of its more vulnerable users to material that could drive them to hurt themselves.
One of the most terrifying things happening on the internet that affects an upsetting amount of girls is the “pro-ana/mia” community — online discussion groups that promote anorexia and bulimia, personifying both eating disorders with female names: Ana and Mia. Girls enter these groups, usually online forums, and talk about how much weight they lose, how many calories they take in a day, and how they aspire to look like skeletal, sick women like this (possible TRIGGER WARNING for those recovering from/living with eating disorders). They say things like “I need a visit from Ana!” or “I wish Mia would come for me,” and give advice and tips for “thinspiration.” While some people who struggle with these eating disorders are male, the vast majority are women, and lots of them are very young.
And that’s just eating disorders. There are also sites that promote other self-harm activities like cutting and mutilation. About 20 percent of teenagers say they’ve cut themselves on purpose. Once again, some people who take part in this are male, but the majority of teenager “cutters” are female. Some sites even go as far as promoting suicide and providing tips.
By now, you are probably preparing to run away to the mountains and raise your children far, far away from any hint of an internet connection.
But at least one site is taking a stand against these sites. Tumblr has announced new content policies banning sites that promote self-harm, be it mutilation, eating disorders, and the like. From their site:
One of the great things about Tumblr is that people use it for just about every conceivable kind of expression. People being people, though, that means that Tumblr sometimes gets used for things that are just wrong. 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. …
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. These are messages and points of view that we strongly oppose, and don’t want to be hosting.
There was an idea to keep allowing the sites while attaching additional information on how someone seeking out self-harm tips can find real help and avoid engaging in destructive behavior. But instead, they have decided to prohibit the sites completely. They will also post “public service announcements” when users search for the pro-self-harm terms on the site. For example, when someone searches for “proana,” they will come up with something like this:
Eating disorders can cause serious health problems, and at their most severe can even be life-threatening. Please contact the [resource organization] at [helpline number] or [website].
Some might call this a threat to freedom of speech on the internet. And while you’d be hard-pressed to find someone in their right mind supporting these pro-self-harm sites, some might feel like they have every right to an open discussion about this subject, and Tumblr has stated that it will hear any and all concerns at firstname.lastname@example.org. But Tumblr is a private company. It can make its own rules. And if they don’t want to provide a place for these discussions, then they don’t have to. And they just made the internet a slightly safer place by excluding these sites.
Let us all return to our silly gifs now, and make sure Tumblr stays silly or serious — but safe.
(via The Next Web)