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Tumblr holds meeting with government over suicide blogs

By Greg Dawson
Newsbeat reporter

image captionCharlotte, 20, took an overdose after being influenced by blogs on Tumblr

Tumblr has confirmed it is in talks with the UK government as part of attempts to improve online safety.

The blogging site was criticised recently at the inquest into the death of 15-year-old Tallulah Wilson, who took her own life after posting self-harm photos on the site.

Tumblr says it "draws lines" at harmful content like self-harm blogs.

A meeting, chaired by Culture Secretary Ed Vaizey, was held last month with all the major social networking sites.

A follow-up meeting is set to take place soon.

Laura Higgins, from the UK Safer Internet Centre, said: "It was a very positive meeting. It is the start of a process. We talked about how reports are dealt with and how the sites are moderated.

"It's something we're going to be regularly looking at. Hopefully there will be some sharing going forward of the really good practice that was there in the room."

Self-harm photos

During the inquest it was revealed that Tallulah's mother closed down her daughter's Tumblr account shortly before her death because it contained photos of her harming herself.

Sarah Wilson said her daughter was "caught in a toxic digital world" and claimed other girls on the site were also cutting themselves and comparing their injuries.

It was a similar experience for 20-year-old Nottingham University student, Charlotte.

She used the site anonymously when she was suffering an eating disorder and self-harming.

Charlotte says she would sometimes post photos of her wounds to the site.

She said: "People were almost encouraging you to do it saying they would self-harm with you. I saw a lot of people put on very graphic pictures of their self-harm.

"Sometimes you get into the way of comparing your injuries to theirs."

image captionTallulah Wilson posted self-harm pictures on Tumblr before taking her own life

Charlotte took an overdose but survived, with a badly damaged liver.

She said: "The fact that my mental state at that point was unstable, the fact that I used Tumblr in that way, I think that it did have a big influence."

In a statement Tumblr said: "Tumblr is deeply committed to protecting our users' freedom of expression, but we draw lines around a few categories of content we consider damaging to our community, including blogs that encourage self-harm.

"Users are encouraged to report those blogs to, where our Trust and Safety team can respond to content that violates our policies."

However, critics believe the site can do more to intercept harmful content before it is uploaded.

There has also been criticism that it focuses too heavily on its US audience when it comes to referring users to support sites.

Ms Higgins said: "They have millions of UK-based members. When I challenged them about some of their policies before they said, 'We've run these huge campaigns with teenagers in schools' but it was all in America.

"None of that has happened here in the UK. I think a lot of people wouldn't even know how to report something if they saw it on Tumblr."

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More on this story

  • Internet safety plea over death of Tallulah Wilson

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