The authorities in South Korea are contemplating a ban for social media giant Tumblr. Korean officials express dismay at Tumblr’s famously liberal policy about explicit materials.
In the days leading to the decision social media pioneer, Tumblr refused to comply to a request by the Korea Communications Standards Commission. The authorities wanted Tumblr to block pornographic content. The company argued though that it is only bound by U.S. law as it doesn’t have any offices in South Korea. rejected the Korea Communications Standards Commission’s request to put a crimp on pornographic images, claiming the New York company without a physical presence in the country, is regulated only by U.S. law.
Consequently, South Korean regulators are now contemplating blocking Tumblr altogether. Heo Wook, member of the Korea Communications Standards Commission said in an interview with Korea Times: »About 10 percent of its [Tumblr’s] content is pornographic. It is also an important matter for Tumblr’s brand image. We will ask the company again to resolve the issue.«
The relationship between the company and Korean regulators gets worse and worse. Between January and June, the Korea Communications Standards Commission asked Tumblr to delete contents considered illegal under Korean law. 22,000 separate requests were delivered to Tumblr’s mailboxes. Compared to that the requests towards other companies were much smaller. Instagram only got 12, Facebook 5 requests to remove material. Only Twitter seems to be also under the radar of Korean regulators. 1,771 removal requests were sent to the short messaging service.
Both Twitter and Tumblr are more openminded towards sexual content and don’t require users to identify their real names to get an account. All you need is an email address to start with those services. While this might be desirable in many cases, it also puts the companies on a collision course with more oppressive and less tolerant countries.
While the relative anonymity might be a huge advantage for many users and should be embraced by privacy activists worldwide it also makes it easier to share contents that are illegal or highly problematic. It might be essential for both companies’ international and longterm sustainability how to address that problem without getting rid of what makes them popular and positive forces in many countries worldwide.