Comparisons are useful for the differences they highlight. So, first, here is a showcase of two different interactions with Tumblr support. Then, a short story about men with cameras.
Two email exchanges. A story about men with cameras. Ready?
First email exchange.
Some months ago, I received an email from a follower of mine on Tumblr alerting me to a different Tumblr blog. Their email said:
If you care & have the wherewithal to deal with people writing hateful things about you, this is a thing you could get taken down. So stupid that Tumblr “needs” you directly involved! […]
We appreciate your bringing this to our attention. In these cases, we need to hear directly from someone who is being featured or discussed on this blog. They can contact us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition, we will need their help in understanding the context of the behavior being reported, examples of the abusive behavior in the form of permalinks (links to individual posts).
Post permalinks are permanent links (URLs) to individual posts, and you can find instructions to locate them at: http://support.tumblr.com/post/70605376406/hey-need-a-link-to-a-specific-post
Thanks again for your assistance.
Tumblr – Trust & Safety
The blog http://maymayishilarious.tumblr.com/ is a hate blog about a specific person. I believe this is against the community guidelines and should be taken down.
So, I wrote to Tumblr:
I am maymay, the target of the hate blog maymayishilarious.tumblr.com.
Here are three examples of the hateful posts this blog has written about me: http://maymayishilarious.tumblr.com/post/76154801459/welcome-to-the-greatest-blog-ever-about-me-i-am , http://maymayishilarious.tumblr.com/post/76155141913/a-person-says-something-intelligent-and , http://maymayishilarious. tumblr.com/post/76156140083/its-kind-of-weird-seeing-a-male-passing-person
I believe this content is against the community guidelines, and the blog should be taken down.
Can you predict what the outcome of this exchange was? I bet you sure can! Here it is, in full:
Thank you for your note. As you may know, Tumblr is a US site regulated by US law. Tumblr is a provider of content creation tools, not a mediator of that content. We allow our users to create blogs, but we don’t make any claims about the content of these pages. Tumblr cannot know whether content is actually defamatory, libelous or slanderous in the absence of a court order.
Given these facts, and pursuant with the immunity provided under Section 230(c) of the Communications Decency Act, Tumblr does not remove allegedly defamatory, libelous, or slanderous material from Tumblr.com. If a contact email address is listed on the blog, we recommend you work directly with the author to have the content in question removed or changed. If you elect to pursue legal action against the blogger and obtain a court order concerning the content in question, please forward it to us for review.
Beyond that, there are several ways to stop viewing blogs with content that troubles you. Aside from avoiding a blog, as a Tumblr user you can also “ignore” a blog from appearing on your Dashboard – please see http://tumblr.com/ignore. Ignoring also prevents that account from sending messages to you.
We apologize for any inconvenience.
Tumblr Trust & Safety
I didn’t bother responding to or arguing the point with Tumblr, even though their number one “Community Guideline” reads:
Don’t encourage violence or hatred on the basis of things like race, ethnic origin, religion, disability, gender, age, veteran status, or sexual orientation. We encourage you to dismantle negative speech through argument rather than censorship. We will, however, remove anything that is overtly malicious.
I did quietly keep an eye on that hate blog. Eventually I sent that blog’s operators a message and, apparently a little spooked, they took themselves out of public view.
Second email exchange.
Fast forward to this morning, when I receive a message from Tumblr support whose subject is “Content Policy Violation”:
We have removed content from your blog at http://days.maybemaimed.com/post/84764214120/public-service-announcement-for-people-who-use-the because the content violated the Terms of Service and Community Guidelines that you accepted when you created your account. We do not allow content that violates the privacy of another individual on Tumblr.
If you believe we removed this content in error, you may contact us at email@example.com detailing your concerns.
You can review Tumblr’s Community Guidelines at http://www.tumblr.com/policy/en/community. Repeat violations of Tumblr’s policies may result in account termination.
Please let us know if you have any questions.
Tumblr Trust & Safety
The post they’d removed included a screenshot of a statement I filed in the Predator Alert Tool for Facebook about an individual named Alec Brice-Bateman for leaving a comment filled with rape apologia on my blog under the name “Sarah.”
It had been reblogged a number of times. Indeed, if you reblogged it, you might be surprised to learn that the reblog of the post on your own Tumblr is now also gone. It’s vanished, as though you put a pen to paper and the pen gave you an error that said, “Sorry, you’re not allowed to write that.”
I won’t bother responding to or arguing the point with Tumblr in this case either. After all, Tumblr’s community guidelines also explicitly state:
We reserve the right to enforce, or not enforce, these guidelines in our sole discretion, and these guidelines don’t create a duty or contractual obligation for us to act in any particular manner.
I’ve seen that attitude before. Moreover, this isn’t the first time Tumblr has made its tendencies on the issue that rapist’s and creeper’s and their apologists’ “privacy rights” trump most everything else.
Those were the two email exchanges. Now, a short story about men with cameras.
On the train. In line at the pharmacy. Even in class. You really never know when someone might snap a picture of you, add a sleazy comment and post it to a highly trafficked site like Reddit to be ogled at by strangers. Don’t believe it? It actually happens a lot.
CreepShots, a forum on Reddit devoted to photos taken of women without their knowledge or consent, was recently embroiled in controversy after a teacher was fired for posting a picture of his underage student.
Now, a new Tumblr blog hopes to give creepsters a taste of their own medicine.
Predditors — a play on ‘Redditors,’ a nickname for users of the site — posts personal information about CreepShots submitters, including photos, Facebook pages, marital status, location and occupation, and any other identifying details found by sleuthing on the Internet.
According to Jezebel, the creator of the site is a 25-year old woman who wants posters to be held accountable for their creepiness. “Reddit’s defense of [CreepShots] is that it’s ‘technically legal,'” she said. “So I’m doing something that’s technically legal, but will result in consequences for their actions. These fuckers think they can get away with it scot free, which is one of the reasons why sexual violence is so prevalent around the world.”
The site has named 36 Reddit users since it launched on Sept. 29th.
UPDATE: Tumblr has apparently taken down the Predditors blog. Links to the Tumblr account were down on Thursday morning. Users are sounding off about the presumed takedown. You can read their reactions here.
Seeing The Predditors Tumblr being censored was the original inspiration for the Predator Alert Tool software suite. It aims to solve exactly this problem: Tumblr censors you to protect rapists, creeps, and their apologists. Other sites are also notorious for the same kind of behavior, notably FetLife, and I’m pleased that the Predator Alert Tool for FetLife has been a thorn in their side for a while now.
Like FetLife, Tumblr owns all content you post to Tumblr, and they’ll enforce their community guidelines (or not) as it suits them. You don’t have “rights” on Tumblr, you have legally-binding contractual “Guidelines that you accepted when you created your account,” their words. You only even exist on Tumblr at their whims. How does it feel, peasant?
Of course, the post that Tumblr removed is still available for a while on Google’s Cache, and the censored post is also still available on CiteBite and Freze.it. In classic fashion, the Internet perceives censorship as damage and routes around it.
If you want to help route around censorship, Tumblr’s or anyone’s, you could just use the “reblog” or “retweet” or “share,” buttons, but then you’re guaranteeing that the company whose site you’re using can censor everyone in one click. One click to share? One click to censor.
Instead, copy and paste what you want to share into a new post of your own, wherever you are; if you want to make a difference using social media, manually copying pasting things other people want removed is the most important thing to do. (And you are not stealing.) In other words: Bring Your Own Content because as Tumblr made clear today, servers no longer serve, they possess. We should call them possessors.