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.

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3 responses »

  1. meganf says:

    I have totally seen tumblrs like that. I definitely think tumblr needs to do something about this and realize that they are part of the problem if they don’t remove those blogs. Especially since so much of tumblr’s users are young and impressionable.

  2. jessicarice13 says:

    There’s certainly many examples of the dark, brooding, misunderstood male figure in fiction (TV, movies, books…), as well, that have scores of teenage girls (and then perhaps even saying “teenage girls” is too limiting by far…) swooning. I’m thinking of characters like Tate Langdon, Hannibal, Dexter… These characters are presented as killers, and yet some choose to glorify them, to fantasize about them obsessively. Why? What is the appeal? Would any of these fans really take their fixation out of the realm of fantasy and into reality if, theoretically, the chance presented itself? Or is it possible to admire a serial killer in a TV show without condoning it past the realm of fiction?

    I realize now that I’ve taken the conversation entirely away from the subject of tumblr, but I find it fascinating (in a sort of sickening way) to think about obsessions like these and why they exist.

  3. kthompso says:

    I completely agree with you! I used to use tumblr a lot, but I feel like the community has changed quite a bit as it grew with popularity. I read this vice article about a meth community on tumblr that encouraged others to do meth and share videos of themselves doing meth. You’re right—where do we draw the line? Do we question these communities and shut them down because we whole-heartedly disagree with them? It’s really disturbing.

    If tumblr is to be a space for advocacy, they do need to revisit their “rules” and change the way blogs are functioning. I mean, I’m not one to want to shut down a community where people can relate to one another—unless it’s relating over white supremacy and murder (terrifying).

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