This weekend, I was reflecting on the reading by Castells on the role of the internet in the “Occupy Wall Street,” and how Tumblr is introduced as a social platform in direct contrast to Facebook, an anonymous “storytelling medium” (p. 173). I will admit to being a diehard Tumblr user, but I was trying to think critically about the medium, and my concerns related to it as a tool for social change.
A couple of times now, I have submitted complaints to Tumblr under their so-called rule against “malicious speech,” only to see the sites I report continue to exist and appear to go without punishment. What sort of content am I referring to here? My most recent report was against a page that was dedicated to Dylann Roof, the man behind the attack on the church in Charleston this summer.* Saying it was dedicated to him almost feels like an understatement–the girl owning the page was obsessed with him, and idolized him in a way that you usually see reserved for boy band members or comparable scenarios. She’s not alone–there is a huge network of people on Tumblr fetishizing and glorifying serial killers, rapists, white supremacists, etc, and I have never seen Tumblr staff remove these sites or hold anyone accountable. Why am I bringing this up? If we are going to celebrate sites like Tumblr in recounting the history of the Occupy movement and similar events, we need to recognize the dark side of the freedom these websites offer. Despite the fact that some of these websites (in my opinion) clearly spout hate speech, they continue to exist under the umbrella of “freedom of speech.” When are we going to draw the line?
*If anyone has any doubts that these sites exist, or just wants to feel throughly nauseous, I can show you some of what I’m talking about. However, I’m not going to post it for the time being because unfortunately I think to these people any attention is good attention.