We like to think of Tumblr as one of the more genteel corners of the Internet, above the sordid griefing and harassment so common in online games, virtual worlds, and bulletin boards like 4chan. But anywhere you have the combination of anonymity plus audience you’re going to have jerks who get their kicks by making others miserable. And Tumblr is no exception. Over the past few months the site has become plagued by a new type of griefer uniquely adapted to Tumblr’s system of “reblogging”: the anonyblogger.
Here’s how anonyblogging works: let’s say johndoe.tumblr.com is your target. You create a free account called “johndoesucks” (or whatever, the cruder the better), then “follow” John’s blog. Obsessively “reblog” every post John makes, adding snarky, mean, or outright profane commentary. Tumblr’s “dashboard” system means that people follow John will likely see the nasty comments. It’s the equivalent of watching someone shout at your pal as he walks down the street. But what makes the attack so unpleasant is that there’s no way for John to shake a malicious anonyblogger.
Since Tumblr accounts are both free and quick to set up, it’s easy to see how anonyblogging can get out of hand. And it has. Disagree with John’s politics but too cowardly to confront him head-on? Start an anonyblog. Heard a third-hand report John slept with a girl at a Tumblr meetup and never called her again? Start an anonyblog.
The favoured targets of anonybloggers are Tumblr personalities whose “Internet fame” is felt to exceed their merit. Wired cover girl Julia Allison has multiple anonyblogger critics, and persistent harassment from anonyblogger griefers led Vimeo co-founder Jakob Lodwick to quit Tumblr altogether. But the anonyblogging phenomena is metastasizing through Tumblr so quickly even small fish are finding themselves under attack.
So what to do? We’re sure our Facebook walls and WordPress blogs would be in much worse shape than Tumblr if we lacked tools to moderate comments on those sites. We don’t imagine adding something like the “block user” functionality found on nearly every other social network to Tumblr’s reblogging system is too difficult to do, technically. Tumblr is past due, left alone we don’t imagine the anonybloggers will soon get tired of their cheap thrills.
We’ve asked Tumblr founder David Karp for this thoughts – no response. So we’ll try again. David, do you think this is an issue?
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