Still yet more whining about untagged horror in sponsored posts

From: John Callender <>

Subject: Re: [Tumblr Support] Re: I’m being surprised by content I find offensive (ticket #1723482)

Date: July 20, 2013 4:29:20 PM PDT

To: Tumblr Support <>

Thank you for the reply, Beth, but that’s not a sufficient answer. I’ve heard the same response several times now: a polite promise to share my views with the team. And that’s it. Nothing substantive. No attempt to justify Tumblr’s policy, but no mention of changing it, either. These responses from Tumblr Trust & Safety are like cotton candy: They look substantial, even have a certain sweetness. But when you bite in there’s nothing there.

From what I’ve read of Tumblr, I assume this was David Karp’s decision. He decided that disturbingly graphic, violent horror movie ads are fine, that people like me are just being too sensitive, and that Tumblr will continue injecting them into our dashboards. You could just admit that. Or you could deny it. Or you could explain how the situation is actually more complicated than that. But saying you’ll share my views doesn’t really help at this point. Unless the previous responses were lying, my views were already shared. But the horror gifs keep coming.

This is a bug report, Beth. Something is broken on your website. It is forcing me to follow a creepy guy who keeps posting untagged horror in my dash. I’d like to unfollow him, but your software won’t let me. You can resolve this ticket as “won’t fix”, but if so you should tell me that, rather than giving me vague assurances that don’t actually mean anything.

I think it’s morally incumbent on Tumblr to support users like me in our desire not to see disturbingly graphic images of horror. It’s a basic norm of human behavior that you not force us to look at images like that against our will. To deny us the tools to avoid seeing them is inconsistent with the principle David expressed in his post.

Tumblr is willing to support me if I don’t want to see porn. So why is it forcing me to view violent horror? That’s what I’m asking, Beth. What’s the difference in those two cases? Why is one something you will help me avoid, while the other is something you actually go out of your way to force me to see?

When you’re sharing my views with the team, please ask them that. Or just tell me what you think, Beth. Because that’s what I really want to know.

You’re a human being. I’m a human being. Your website is all about creating new and innovative ways for human beings to communicate with each other. We should communicate about this.


On Jul 20, 2013, at 2:13 PM, Tumblr Support wrote:

##- Please type your reply above this line -##

Your request (Ticket 1723482) has been updated.

You can respond by replying to this email.

Beth (Tumblr Support)

Jul 20 05:13 pm (EDT)

Hi John,

Thanks for your feedback on this issue! We’re always looking for ways to improve Tumblr, so we’ll share this with the rest of our team. Let us know if you think of anything else.



Tumblr Trust & Safety

[my original message follows]

John Callender

Jul 20 03:35 am (EDT)

In this “staff” post today:

…Tumblr CEO David Karp wrote:

> Making sure people aren’t surprised by content they find offensive is also incredibly important and we are always working to put more control in your hands.

Although the post was specifically about sexually explicit content, it jumped out at me because of my recent concerns about violent horror movie advertising on Tumblr. I’ve previously written to support about this; see Tickets 1721975 and 1643254 for details.

I agree that making sure your users aren’t surprised by content they find offensive is incredibly important. I don’t believe Tumblr is currently living up to that standard. In the last 6 weeks I have repeatedly had such content injected into my dashboard without my prior knowledge or consent as part of the “Sponsored Post” campaigns of univervsalhorrorfilms and theconjuringmovie. Two images in particular have a vivid place in my memory:

* an animated GIF of a woman in a mask lurching toward me down a darkened corridor while a sword dripping with blood dangles from her arm.

* an animated GIF of a man staring blankly into space while behind him I see the gray feet of a female corpse, presumably a suicide victim who has hanged herself, slowly swaying.

I don’t mind if other people want to see that sort of thing (well, I’m concerned about the effect such imagery might have on their longterm mental health, but that’s a different issue). But I absolutely do not want to see it myself. It is deeply offensive to me, and I think a strong argument can be made that it is at least as disturbing and offensive as the NSFW content David was talking about in his post.

With the NSFW stuff I realize that Tumblr is dealing with a large number of content creators who are hard to control. But the horror ads are different. Those are being injected into my dashboard by Tumblr itself. Removing them would be as easy as flipping a switch, if Tumblr had the will to do so. Conversely, giving me the tools to block it would be trivial, since Tumblr could (and by rights, should) require any participant in the sponsored posts program to tag violent, disturbing imagery so people who are sensitive can block it.

That Tumblr is choosing not to do that, that people like me who have written to Support have been replied to only with vague platitudes and inaction, makes David’s post today deeply hypocritical.

I’ve been trying to figure out why this bothers me so much. Usually I’m the sort of person who’s more inclined to just tune out unwanted content, to ignore it or, if that’s too hard, just go somewhere else. I think one reason I’m so bothered in this case is that Tumblr’s users, by and large, are so young. Most of the users I encounter on Tumblr are closer to my children’s age than my own.

Children today are exposed to a lot of icky stuff that was much rarer when I was growing up. Responsible adults have an obligation to do what they can to help them navigate the new information landscape, in particular by helping them avoid unwanted exposure to content that they lack the life experience to effectively process. Inappropriate sexual content is part of that, and it’s good that Tumblr is working to do a better job in that area. But it’s only part of the problem. Disturbingly graphic violence and gore is every bit as problematic, and Tumblr needs to treat it with the same attitude: Making sure users aren’t surprised by content they find offensive, and putting the tools in their hands to avoid that content when they want to.

This email is a service from Tumblr Support..


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Tags: , untagged horror gifs, tumblr support, tumblr trust & safety.

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