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Tumblr Latest Site to Crack Down on Porn

The site is banning adult content later this month, despite porn being a key driver to its longterm success

Tumblr web page under magnifying glass.

Tumblr is the latest website to ban adult content.

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Social media network Tumblr is permanently banning adult content, following an incident in mid-November where the discovery of child porn prompted Apple to remove the platform from its App Store. According to the Verge, as of December 17th, Tumblr users will be strictly prohibited from posting explicit sexual content and nudity, including pornographic photos, videos and GIFs; there are a few exceptions, like nude classical statues, illustrations that do not depict sexual acts, and erotic text.

The new policy is a drastic change from Tumblr’s historically hands-off approach to regulating content. According to the Verge, after Tumblr was officially acquired by Verizon’s Oath subsidiary in mid-June 2017, the company became more aggressive about removing content and began considering more restrictions on content. In February, the company made “Safe Mode” the default for all users, effectively shielding adult content creators from the rest of the platform unless users manually changed their settings. This past August, Tumblr announced new community guidelines that banned revenge porn, hate speech, and posts that glorified gun violence. 

Last month, a “routine audit” of Tumblr’s posts uncovered content that was absent from a database of child sexual abuse material used to filter that type of explicit material from the site, allowing it to slip through the cracks. Though the offending content was taken down immediately, the incident — and the platform’s removal from Apple’s App Store — hastened the company’s desire to give Tumblr a scrubdown.

For now, Tumblr’s algorithms will be flagging existing posts featuring adult content, setting it to private so it can no longer be shared, and alerting users that the posts will be deleted after December 17. That gives users time to appeal if they believe their post has been incorrectly flagged, and allows blogs that have been previously marked as explicit to export adult-content that’s been flagged before it’s deleted. Tumblr will continue to allow those blogs to use the platform, so long as they play by the new rules.

“We’ve given serious thought to who we want to be to our community moving forward,” CEO Jeff D’Onofrio said in a blog post. “We’ve realized that in order to continue to fulfill our promise and place in culture, especially as it evolves, we must change.”

However, as critics of the new policy have pointed out, adult content has been integral to Tumblr’s evolution. Since its launch in 2007, the platform has been a popular host for explicit blogs, sex worker websites and porn-centered communities who relished having a safe, unrestricted space to call their own.

“There are no shortage of sites on the internet that feature adult content,” D’Onofrio wrote about those who would protest the ban. “We will leave it to them and focus our efforts on creating the most welcoming environment possible for our community.”

However, not only was explicit content from that community a key driver of Tumblr’s initial success, it has been essential to the site’s longevity, as countless other more advanced social media networks and apps have saturated the market and chipped away at the company’s share. That Tumblr still exists is due, in no small part, to the loyalty of adult content creators who are now being told that their posts — the bulk of Tumblr’s content — are no longer welcome. And contrary to D’Onofrio’s belief, the Internet isn’t full of safe spaces for sharing NSFW content, especially following the passing of the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) in April, which has led many sites to crack down on explicit content as a precautionary measure.

“Tumblr banning adult content is a huge loss for the LGBTQ community, especially those with overlapping marginalized identities,” queer porn performer and activist Kitty Stryker told Motherboard. “For many, that’s the one place we could find porn that represents us, made by indie performers who created their own content outside of an often racist, transmisogynist, fatphobic industry… Tumblr was where our content could exist without pushing us into the restrictions of a misogynist, male-dominated workplace.”

In This Article: Internet, Pornography, Sexuality

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