She refused to give up her anonymity in order to fight her DMCA takedown notices.
Witty, blunt, and beloved, Tumblr user coketalk has spent the last six years building a devoted fan following and a carefully cultivated anonymous career as an advice columnist and lifestyle blogger.
But all of that changed on Monday, when Tumblr summarily banned coketalk, also known as Coquette, and all of her backup and subsidiary accounts. The reason? Multiple DMCA violations, which she claims were issued for years-old songs. Tumblr head David Karp responded by claiming the site had tried in vain to work with her and that it had no choice but to comply with the law in terminating all her accounts.
It would be hard to overstate coketalk’s mark on Tumblr culture, or the many ways in which her Tumblr following helped her own career. After launching her blog in 2009, she quickly made a name for herself due to her blunt style, ultimately gaining thirty thousand followers on Twitter, and “tens of thousands” on Tumblr. In 2011, the New York Observer named her one of the funniest blogs on Tumblr. That same year, the iPad-only newspaper the Daily launched, and editor Sasha Frere-Jones invited her to become its advice columnist. Coketalk launched her column as Dear Coquette and set about building her career under the “Dear Coquette” moniker. In 2012, she published a book based on her advice column, and Time named her one of the 30 best blogs on Tumblr.
Tumblr itself was well aware of coketalk’s significance. In the early days of Tumblr’s tradition of sending bloggers to fashion week, she was one of the first to be invited, attending under an assumed name and pretending to represent a different blog in order to preserve her anonymity. Ironically, just before it banned her, Tumblr had invited her to participate in its recently launched Answer Time sessions, similar to Reddit AMAs and intended to highlight Tumblr celebrities.
Coketalk posted the violation letter she received on her Twitter account.
The irony of Tumblr asking her to participate in Answer Time just before the deletion wasn’t lost on her.
This wasn’t coketalk’s first violation. In August, after garnering multiple DMCA claims, her Tumblr was deleted but quickly reinstated. “Within ten minutes of sounding the alarm via Twitter, my account had been restored, but I’m one of the lucky ones,” she wrote at the time. The crux of the issue was her refusal to file a counter-claim for the music she legally owned, because doing so might compromise her anonymity.
The Tumblr community, which has long been prone to panic over the website’s enforcement of DMCA violations, exploded in outrage over the banning, with many people claiming they would leave Tumblr altogether in response.
On Tuesday, when Tumblr head David Karp participated in Answer Time, Coketalk encouraged her Twitter followers to take advantage of the opportunity—and they did, pelting him with demands to explain what had happened.
Karp responded with a post that began, “This SUCKS.” He went on to explain that his site had tried to work with her but ultimately had no choice but to ban her as a “repeat infringer.”
In Coketalk’s case, we repeatedly warned her not to post unauthorized copyrighted material (all music posts in her case) and offered to walk her through the issues by phone last year. She declined to counter-notify the notices that she received on her account, which would have rolled those strikes back. We unfortunately received a third notice against her account yesterday, and were required by law to terminate all of her accounts.
Speaking to Cole Stryker for his book Hacking the Future, Coketalk stated that preserving her pseudonymity was the key to her success. “It works because it’s bullshit-free,” she said. She also noted that she “inherently distrust[s]” attempts to eradicate anonymity on the Internet.
After her brief August deletion, she vowed to stick with her community as long as she could.
I love Tumblr. I love the community it fosters. I love my dashboard full of people I follow, and I love the interactions I have with all the people who follow me. I don’t want to leave Tumblr, but I don’t want to be so beholden to the whims of some DMCA termination robot either.
But by the time Karp responded to the community’s request for answers about what happened to her, it was clear she would move on.
She is currently working on creating a new blog at DearCoquette.com, where followers can sign up to be notified when the site goes live.
Photo via coketweet/Twitter