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Should we Censor Blogs that Promote Self Harm?

Recently, top social media sites met with the UK government to discuss the issues surrounding safety on their website. Millions of young people in the UK are Tumblr users, and after a number of suicides and suicide attempts influenced by self-harm blogs, the government is looking into what more social sites can do to prevent future incidents.

These blogs offer communities to those who self-harm, but in support of the destructive behavior and encourages followers to continue. They often include graphic photos and injury comparisons among users. While Tumblr has an abuse policy against such blogs, it does not have provisions to address them until after users have reported them.

As a former Tumblr user, I can recall posts in which someone would send a terrified call out that someone they follow had posted suicidal content and weren’t responding to messages. Tumblr has campaigns in America to refer help resources to those who post self-harm content, but has not implemented these measures in the UK, despite the high number of users.

Social Media

While the Internet can be an amazing tool and resource for young people to connect and form communities, it can be equally dangerous in the wrong hands. So what falls into the responsibility of social media platforms? Should they simply remove destructive blogs like those featuring self-harm, or do more to provide assistance and resources to their users?

From a social responsibility standpoint, I’m inclined to think when you take the risk of hosting dangerous content, you need to be proactive about protecting those that may consume it. Perhaps social media sites could consider consistently scanning for harmful blogs or posts, not only to shut them down before they’re ever reported, but to also provide them with resources and encouragement to seek help (and maybe even sources for blogs about recovery and support, to fulfill that pathology). The tricky bit is keeping the Internet a free and open space—moderators should monitor, not censor. Let’s make social media a place of support, empathy, and healing, and keep away from the cyber bullying—including bullying ourselves.

Missa Goodier, Intern

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