Get Your Politics Out of My Face, Tumblr

Ugh, Tumblr. The exasperating microblogging site's execs were content to rent luxury cars, ignore emails, party in the Hamptons and take expensive pictures of their Vespas amid mass unemployment, economic collapse, banker bailouts, epic government privacy violations, fraudulent home foreclosures, and the beating of Occupy protesters across the country. But now that a copyright bill has put the startup's bubble jackpot on the line, it's all up in everyone's "Dashboards" with its political conscientiousness. Shut up, already.

It's not that Tumblr is wrong. The bill it is now vocally opposing, the Stop Online Piracy Act, is presently before Congress and sounds like a terrible sop to the entertainment industry. In the name of preventing copyright violations, it would create a national blacklist of websites, which all internet service providers would have to block. You could be put on the list without a trial or even a hearing. ISPs would become liable for even briefly and unknowingly hosting pirated content.

And it's not that Tumblr hasn't been a force for good; its technology has helped foment illuminating discussions of various societal ills and political wrongdoings.

No, what's grating is how far Tumblr went about fighting this particular menace: In a move unprecedented in its four year history, the blog network covered users' "Dashboards," where they read friends' Tumblrs, with censorship blocks, such that no one could read anything without clicking. The idea was to illustrate SOPA's potential to undermine free expression on blog networks like Tumblr. Dashboard users were funneled to a Tumblr political advocacy page where you could enter personal information and get a phone call providing you with talking points and routing you to your Congressman. It apparently worked: "Holy crap - you guys are averaging 3.6 calls per second," wispy Tumblr child king David Karp Tumbld.

Grabbing people by the collar and trying to make them care about politics can be a noble pursuit. But it is, as a rule, very much not Tumblr, Inc.'s pursuit. The well funded company, recently valued at more than $800 million, can barely bring itself to halfheartedly police the spam, porn and - oh, right! - pirated content clogging its servers. It's never been much for politics. Though based in New York and serving a disproportionately young and (we'd venture) politically aware userbase, the company has remained on the sidelines as the Occupy Wall Street movement unfolded. It wasn't even worth mentioning on the staff blog. If you wanted to hand the movie studios a villain, someone who personified the most obnoxious, unconvincing, and blatantly self serving opposition to SOPA, whose greedy reasons for opposing the bill might overshadow all the legitimate reasons, you'd hand them a company like Tumblr and a CEO like Karp.

Welcome to contemporary American politics, Tumblr. It's nice that you find it corrupt and insane and revoltingly distorted, but where the fuck have you been?

[Photo of Karp via edans/Flickr]