Once extremely popular blogging and social networking site Tumblr has largely fallen off the radar over the past years – and that may be putting it mildly. Now, its strategy to regain some of that past glory seems to be more censorship – even if that is precisely what undermined its business in the first place.
Bought by Yahoo for $1.1 billion in 2013, Tumblr was sold again last year – after hemorrhaging millions of users – for reportedly only $3 million. The new owner is Automattic, who has WordPress.com in its portfolio.
One of the reasons often cited for Tumblr’s slow demise has been the growing amount of censorship under Yahoo (Verizon) stewardship: most notably, in 2018, Tumblr outlawed all that it deemed to be pornographic content.
And it seems that Tumblr is now in the news only when it changes hands for shockingly small amounts of money – given its previous status – or when it introduces even more censorship.
This time, it’s the latter. Automattic is not only keeping the policy regarding the porn ban, but is also adding “hate speech.”
Tumblr said in a blog post that the way its community guidelines are being enforced when it comes to hate speech are now changing.
Tumblr revealed that it had already removed a majority of blogs that it found were disseminating hate speech – but posts from those blogs continued to exists as “reblogs” on other people’s accounts. And as those have not shown proper diligence as self-moderators/censors (“those reblogs rarely contained the kind of counter-speech that serves to keep hateful rhetoric in check”), Tumblr has now decided to do something about that.
And it’s going for a blunt approach: after removing about 1,000 blogs flagged for hate speech, it will now remove a further 4.47 million reblogs.
Aware that this is a mess in the making, Tumblr promises to its ever-shrinking userbase that their freedom of expression is a “consideration,” and adds: “We do not want to silence those who are providing educational and necessary counter-arguments to hate speech.”
The blog post then adds an explanation of the process that is completely vague and nontransparent: “We reviewed our approach with a variety of outside groups and experts to make sure we have aligned with their recommended best practices.”