The microblogging site Tumblr announced this week that it will amend its Content Policy to prohibit blogs that actively promote self-harm. This category includes pro-anorexia blogs (and pro-other eating disorders), blogs that encourage things like cutting, and blogs that give you tips on committing suicide. The addition to the policy reads as follows:
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.
The site will also present users who search for terms associated with self-harm with what's being called "public service style" language that encourages them to seek help and provides them with links to further resources.
Pro-anorexia blogs, which also go by the much more innocuous-sounding label of "thinspo," in particular have gained huge popularity on Tumblr in recent years; such networks have users — mostly but not only young women — posting their extreme weight-loss goals, bemoaning how fat they are, and posting pictures of rib-revealing runway models as motivation. Some of them openly celebrate anorexia. It's… an unpleasant phenomenon, to say the least.
Of course, as with Reddit's recent decision to ban threads that sexualize minors, many people question how effectively such a policy can be enforced. Some users are worried they will post the wrong thing and find themselves in trouble (though Tumblr says a grace period will be allowed to edit or download flagged content — no word on an appeals process, though). And where will the line be between a blog that promotes eating disorders and a blog about dieting? People are, as usual, crying out "slippery slope," but my guess (which is total conjecture), is that more prohibited content will slip through the cracks than allowed content will be removed. Because no matter where Tumblr draws its line, this thing is going to be a bitch to implement.
[Above, an actual pillow once sold in stores; or, why no one needs more encouragement towards anorexia.]