Tumblr is censoring prevention messages and amplifying harmful ones

I am a medical professional and researcher who specializes in the treatment of minor-attracted people such as pedophiles and hebephiles, whom we sometimes collectively call MAPs. Every day, a handful of adolescents around the world are realizing for the first time that they might be pedophiles. Can you imagine how awful that must be? Many of them turn to the Internet—but not to the “dark web”, just to the same social networks that we all use, such as Tumblr. What will they find when they get there? Will they be told that it’s OK to offend, and be welcomed into a club of abusers? Will they be told that they are not human and encouraged to kill themselves?

These are the only two messages that Tumblr wants young MAPs to receive on Tumblr, and for me that’s not OK. I believe that a third message is required: that it’s possible for a MAP to live with their unwanted sexual attraction, without harming either themselves or a child. But this message sounds less compelling to a MAP coming from a professional like myself than it would coming from one of their peers. I believe that it is helpful for there to be public role models of non-offending, anti-contact MAPs (those who oppose sex between adults and children and unlawful images of minors, which the Tumblr community calls “CP”).

Tumblr’s purge of the prevention community

So it’s frustrating that Tumblr has a habit of indiscriminately deleting MAPs’ and allies’ blogs. It’s not the first time that this has happened, because mass reporting campaigns by vigilante “pedophile hunters” have resulted in previous mass purges of non-offending MAPs and allies. But in the last few days, a particularly intense purge has been going on. All well known MAP and ally blogs were deleted at the same time, barely leaving anyone from this community there. My account, in which I clearly identify as a professional, was deleted as well. The first time, we got a message like this:

Here Tumblr is waving an unfounded accusation of the serious crime of possessing and sharing CP. This would be bad enough. But they are also deleting blogs that are supposed to have such CP hosted on them without looking to check if this is true. Since they also refuse to discuss the matter, we don’t know for sure but it seems to me that they are just automatically deleting blogs reported for child abuse, without investigating or alerting authorities about people openly sharing this kind of content.

It doesn’t stop there. A couple of days later, Tumblr deleted everyone again. This time, no messages were sent about why. I have been deleted before and they have always sent a message. Not now. Some people remade their blogs and in a matter of minutes they were down again. The next day, a lot of us tried to come back. We were deleted in less than 24 hours. Even blogs unrelated to MAPs were taken down. My own personal blog, without relationship to any kind of MAP discourse (beside using “aleska-kolja” as part of the URL), was taken down. Again, no explanations, no option to complain or ask for them back.

The actions were so fast and the targets so constant that it’s hard to believe it is the result of mass reporting. It gives the feeling that Tumblr is specifically seeking out people involved with the anti-contact MAP community to ban them without explanation. Maybe through IP addresses, maybe through tags and known nicknames. But the effect is clear; this community is being quietly eliminated from Tumblr, with the result being a lack of resources for MAPs seeking help and also the loss of a useful tool to spread awareness and anti-contact ideas, together with information about therapy for MAPs and CSA prevention. I have used this site as a way to get in touch with MAPs, share sources, and help people.

The fact that Tumblr is censoring users to the point of taking even unrelated blogs down in a span of 24 hours is even more disturbing. It’s not only non-offending MAPs who are being harmed by this, but researchers and survivors are also having their freedom of expression curtailed. An entire community at the “ground zero” of child sexual abuse prevention is being censored, and it’s children who will ultimately suffer the most.

Suicide baiting and harrassment

And since we are on the topic of Tumblr, I would like to mention some of the things they are allowing while they ban MAPs and allies who haven’t broken the terms of service (TOS). There are plenty of blogs with actual CP. We keep reporting them to Cybertip and Tumblr, but most times, Tumblr doesn’t do anything about them. The blogs stay up. I think it’s because they don’t look at the individual reports and just delete through mass reporting. Only now are they paying attention, but to the wrong people, trying to get rid of MAPs instead of seeking and targeting blogs posting CP.

Besides that, people on Tumblr keep sending all kind of hateful messages and have been suicide baiting and even doxxing people (I know of at least one minor who attempted suicide as result of it), and Tumblr keeps allowing it, even though hate speech and harassment is against their own rules. Just as an example, I’m adding here some of the messages MAPs and allies get on a daily basis (I’ll add some from Facebook comments about a Tumblr post too):

  • Talking about a suicidal 14 years old, CSA survivor who is also in a potentially abusive situation.
  • This was for me, for being an ally.
  • Also for me.
  • To a CSA survivor who is an Ally, talking about their abuse.
  • To a minor.

What can be done? Innocent people are being targeted and purged from websites and no one moves a finger for them. They are getting horrible comments every day and instead of getting help, they get kicked out. They get only more hate and marginalization, and there is no one to protect or stand up for them. A large part of the MAP community members on Tumblr are victims of CSA, seeking people like them to bond and feel better, and they are seeing all their options taken away. With Twitter, Medium, Discord and now Tumblr, a lot of innocent people are finding themselves without any place to go, isolated from things that are an easy guarantee for anyone else. It makes me worried about them and their health, with the injustice and the consequences of this. This is not acceptable.

MAPs are a population that most people are uncomfortable considering, because they associate them with the minority who go on to offend. It’s understandable, but it’s also harmful when it creates wilful blindness about the big opportunity that we have to prevent abuse. We could be helping young and older MAPs who are turning to social media, many of them hurting and confused, trying to find answers and support. Instead, by turning our venom on them and censoring their speech, it means that MAPs are only hearing two messages when they go online: “kill yourself” or “here’s the CP.”

Tumblr has taken the wrong side here by allowing harmful messages to win out over messages of hope and support. As a result, more MAPs may end up falling into harmful patterns of behavior, and more children may end up being abused. It doesn’t have to be this way, and finally in Prostasia Foundation we have an organization willing to talk to the platforms and tell them so.

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