Tumblr is explicitly banning hate speech, posts that celebrate school shootings, and revenge porn

Tumblr is changing its community guidelines to more explicitly ban hate speech, glorifying violence, and revenge porn. The new rules go into effect on September 10th.

“It’s on all of us to create a safe, constructive, and empowering environment,” Tumblr writes in its blog post. “Our community guidelines need to reflect the reality of the internet and social media today.” The previous version of the guidelines can still be viewed on GitHub for comparison.

Tumblr struck out words in its hate speech policy that encouraged users to argue with negative speech that “doesn’t rise up to the level of violence or threats of violence” and to only report something if it was “especially heinous.”

Here are the exact words that are now deleted, emphasis mine:

If you encounter negative speech that doesn’t rise to the level of violence or threats of violence, we encourage you to dismantle negative speech through argument rather than censorship. That said, if you encounter anything especially heinous, tell us about it.

These words created a gray area, the company noted in its blog post, and content shouldn’t have to reach heinous levels to merit reporting.

Users can now report hate speech directly in the mobile app through the small paper airplane icon on the bottom right-hand side of a post. Tap “report” and then tap “something else,” which will take you to a list of more specific violations, including hate speech.

“The internet is being exploited by hate groups to organize, recruit, and radicalize with horrifying efficiency,” Tumblr writes in explanation for why it’s updating the hate speech guideline, likely referring to alt-right groups and other radical groups online. The guidelines will also be used to remove Islamophobic, anti-Semitic, and anti-LGBTQ+ content.

The platform is also responding to posts that glorify mass murders, like Columbine, Sandy Hook, and Parkland, which “could inspire copycat violence.” The section in community guidelines that address Gore and Mutilation now also explicitly bans violent content that “encourages or incites violence” or glorifies the perpetrators.

And to address the spread of revenge porn and deepfakes, where people use AI to swap people’s faces into pornographic videos, Tumblr is now explicitly saying that users can’t “engage in the unwanted sexualization or sexual harassment of others.” It’s a small line that’s expressly aimed at banning non-consensual images.

In addition to updating its guidelines, Tumblr also says it’s increased the size of its moderation team. Posts that open up a dialogue or engage in factual, historical education about a discriminatory practice are still allowed, and the team is supposed to evaluate posts to see what kind of context they’re steeped in before removing inappropriate ones.

While other social media platforms like Discord and Twitter are still coming up with effective ways to combat hate speech and radical groups, Tumblr’s approach seems straightforward enough. If users are given more specific guidelines for what constitutes bad behavior, then hate speech might no longer be able to hide within the gray areas of company policy.