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Battling Blogs on Self-Harm

Two weeks ago, popular social blogging site Tumblr introduced a new policy designed to combat the growing number of blogs promoting self-harm. The plan will use two strategies. First, along with existing policies against spam and identity theft, the company will now be monitoring pages that “glorify or promote anorexia, bulimia, and other eating disorders; self-mutilation; or suicide.” Second, Tumblr will begin to show public-service-announcement-esque in search results for keywords related to self-harm.
 
Interestingly enough, these types of blogs are nothing new. When I was in middle school, back when blogs were just coming into the limelight, I spent hours posting trivial facts about my life and searching for new blogs. With every basic search, I would come across “pro-ana” (ana for anorexic) and “thinspiration” (a portmanteu of “thin” and “inspiration”) blogs and communities. These blogs consisted of dieting tips, photos of people whose bodies are emulated, exercise plans, calorie intake per day, and start and goal weights. And though a sense of community is usually portrayed as a positive, what happens when that community is encouraging and rewarding destructive and unhealthy behaviors?
 
As blogging has expanded, so have thinspiration blogs. Xanga, Livejournal, Blogspot, WordPress, and now Tumblr. I applaud Tumblr for being the first to take a definitive stand in hopes to save the lives of its own community members. But how does this fit in with the idea of freedom of speech? Blogs have been hailed for giving people voices… and with the majority of the nation now regularly online, freedom of speech and privacy on the Internet have become hot button issues. Think about the massive response to Congress’s efforts to pass the SOPA and PIPA bills. How will Tumblr users feel about this new policy? This is a good measure… but will these people just end up being silenced without receiving much help? 

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