By Matt Binder
As we kick off 2020, big tech companies are undoubtedly feeling the pressure of an election year and the responsibilities their platforms have in the dissemination of information. Even the microblogging service Tumblr has plans to engage with its community.
On Monday, Tumblr announced a new digital literacy initiative in order to “help empower its community and the next young generation of internet citizens recognize suspicious online activity and behavior.”
The World Wide What initiative aims to educate Tumblr’s user base on topics such as disinformation and fake news, cyberbullying, and authenticity. The program was created in partnership with a UK anti-bullying nonprofit called . The initiative includes a six video digital literacy series as well as a Tumblr blog hosting other relevant memes, photos, and links.
“We wanted the initiative to act like a guide on how to achieve a positive and healthy relationship with social media and a resource that will help our users spread the word,” said Tumblr’s Director of Social Impact and Public Policy Victoria McCullough in a statement to Mashable. “When discussing these kinds of themes, we wanted to be very authentic to Tumblr’s communities and the ways they interact with each other.”
Tumblr has had a of a year since ditching all of the on its platform. However, while it did lose visitors with those policy changes, the microblogging service still boasts hundreds of millions of monthly visitors. More importantly, the platform has a dedicated base of extremely internet savvy users in the younger demographics.
That’s not to say a largely digitally literate user base means a company shouldn’t work on initiatives like this. There’s always someone who can benefit from the sort of awareness World Wide What is intended to bring to fake news and cyberbullying.
For instance, in 2018, Tumblr that it had uncovered a Russian disinformation campaign on its platform. And, as and point out, some Tumblr communities remain extremely toxic so cyberbullying is also clearly an issue worth addressing.
The question is: will Tumblr’s users engage with it?
Tumblr is a platform dominated by memes and GIFs largely driven by music, movie, and TV show fandoms. The main content being promoted right now from World Wide What are two-to-three minute long videos with captions, lacking a human host or narration.
These types of videos are usually made for social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook. But, on Tumblr, where the users likely overlap more so with the YouTube audience, having some sort of face to lend authority to content geared to this very specific group of users would likely be very helpful.
“Today’s launch is just the first step in our effort to strengthen user safety policies in 2020,” said McCullough. “We are in the process of reviewing and strengthening our Community Guidelines and Trust and Safety response to better address mis/disinformation, make it clear to our community what is and what is not allowed and how to actionably report that type of misleading activity.”
“We’re also always exploring product improvements to make the site safer and healthier for our community that are reflections of the overall mission of World Wide What,” she continued.
The initiative is certainly a step in the right direction. I just think Tumblr can do more to make World Wide What appealing to its demographic. Let’s see what its future holds.
UPDATE: Jan. 7, 2020, 9: 39 a.m. EST This post has been updated to include statements provided to Mashable by Tumblr.