That was fast. Yesterday, blogging service Tumblr moved to ban five accounts the site’s admins judged were “harassing” users — the so called “anonybloggers.” But after receiving “several hundred responses from users who are upset,” Tumblr founder David Karp is backstepping: The banned accounts have returned.
David explains the reversal, and lets his users know he’s really really sorry:
First, let me again apologise for taking action before publicly explaining these policy changes. Some internal confusion lead to five accounts being suspended prematurely.
To clarify, this policy specifically targeted “reblogging-blogs”, where the sole purpose is to repeatedly reblog posts from a specific user or group. We view this as an abuse of our reblog feature, which places accountably on the identity of the poster.
The new solution to the anonyblogger problem: A “block” feature that will require a Internet stalker to at least copy-and-paste a Tumblr post in order to mock it, which may or may not slow down Tumblr’s more dedicated jerks.
After giving this serious consideration, we think it would be more appropriate for us to give you the control to police this content, rather than our moderators. So we’ve hurried to finish a new block feature that will let you filter content from your post notes and Dashboard.
In light of all this, we’ve decided to restore the accounts affected, and remove the language in question from our Content Policy. It was a miscommunication that lead to these accounts being removed prematurely, but it was my decision to leave them off. In retrospect, this was the wrong decision, and I hope we can work to regain your trust and continue building Tumblr into something great.
Where did David & Co. go wrong? Well, the decision to remove five (and only five) accounts by fiat gave rise to cries of selective censorship, and the fact that Tumblr banned the accounts with no warning and then changed its Terms of Service retroactively compounded users’ outrage.
But there’s a lesson to be learned here, the same lesson Mark Zuckerberg learned on Facebook’s own recent Terms of Service reversal. And that’s this: Social networking sites — especially those with a “build traffic now, worry about making money later” model — are very much at the mercy of fickle users. And when popularity is your top asset, don’t antagonize people if you can help it.