Tumblr launched a social network in 2007 that allowed users to express their own opinions. Users were able to remain anonymous if they so desired. Posting adult content, gifs with cute dogs or blog posts to express your views is all possible. Tumblr’s decision to pivot came after an AI bug prevented them from finding any child pornography. Tumblr has banned users from posting adult content as of December 17, 2018. These changes will make Tumblr a more secure platform for users. The changes are also in opposition to the original mission of the company. Tumblr’s solution to censorship would seem simple: allow users the option to remove sensitive content.
Tumblr went away from the iOS App Store around mid-November. The statement stated that, “while all images uploaded to Tumblr are “scanned by an industry database for child sexual abuse material”, to filter them out, “a routine audit” found content that was not in the database. This allowed it slip through the filter.” Apple’s standards were not met by Tumblr, so it was immediately removed. It remained, however on Google Play. The company stated quickly that it is its top priority to get the app back on the iOS app store.
Tumblr has banned all NSFW material. Content that depicts “real-life female nipples or human genitals” is also prohibited. So, for example, the posting of a picture by a new mother breastfeeding her baby is allowed, provided that her nipple remains hidden. The question is, will the 30+ million users be happy with this change? Is it a good decision? Users have been very angry about the decision. They see it as a platform that allows them to express their homosexuality. They will abandon the site. They are among the 423,000 people who signed a petition at change.org asking Tumblr not to ban adult content.
Jeff D’Onfrio explains that when critics ask, “why do you do this?”, Tumblr’s CEO must be responsible and take into account the impact his platform has on different age ranges, demographics and cultures. He also says that “the internet is full of adult sites”. He’s comparing social media sites to porn websites. Tumblr, which has been proud to offer reposting tools for years, allows content producers the freedom to control their images without worrying about copyrights or trademarks. It created a more open-minded community. The next step is to have an effective reporting system. Users can report harassment, violations of privacy and more with a simple click. This feedback is highly valued by the company and it has been proven that they act upon this. The company has also committed to banning all “images and videos” that depict real-life human sexual organs or “female-presenting nupples.” They will enforce this retroactively by asking users to remove any posts that violate the new policy. In an official statement, Facebook urges users to take down any posts that violate the new policy. The Verizon-owned company believes that this type of censorship makes the platform safer.
Tumblr’s “safer” content has been criticized by gays who feel that it isn’t the same as what they would see on a real pornographic website. The Washington Post conducted an interview with an Atlantan man known as Mutabear. His story is below. When he was 27, you can only imagine how socially unacceptable it was when he learned about his sexuality. He adds that he was able to “explore things online which I would never want to do [in] the real world, because it could not be as safe.” It was also a great way to meet other people who share my views. Mutabear’s true self was helped by the acceptance and community that he found in an online community. Ses followers were mainly gay males between the ages of 18 and 25. Mutabear’s posts would generate dozens and dozens direct messages. This would encourage a positive dialogue and offer advice. This would allow younger males the opportunity to explore anonymously their sexuality. Tumblr’s users felt less alone, which is priceless. In making Tumblr safe, the site has upset those who were most welcoming.
It is not funny to find child pornography in their “safe spaces” platform. Tumblr executives seemed to make quick decisions after the iOS story broke. The decision was made to improve the platform. The company is transparent about their bugs and what they’re doing to fix them. In this case, that includes policy changes. Unfortunately, the changes that are being made come at a cost to the young men who are using anonymity to communicate themselves and figure out who and what they will be in the near future. Each side has pros and disadvantages. TechCrunch reported that in 2017, a feature called “safe-mode” was released, which allowed users the ability to censor sensitive material. It gave users the power, not the executives. The Verge’s article on the current culture is excellent. We live in “a cultural environment that views pornography as a public health crisis, and prefers to censor sex to acknowledge its existence. Nudity is viewed as incompatible with daily human life. This will be our only fault”.
Tumblrs can be curated according to the tastes of each individual, much like Facebook ads. It is true that the elimination of content deemed adult helps people express their opinions more openly, but this has also taken away a place where they could go to feel safe. In turn, it has marginalized gender and homosexual identities and removed their safe spaces. Users have started to migrate to other platforms like Newgrounds and Pillowfort. Twitter has also seen a surge in users. Tumblr’s response has been eloquent, both legally and ethically. Some users in marginalized communities think that Tumblr has been irresponsible socially.
Tumblr Was Removed from Apple’s App Store Over Child Pornography Issues Jon Porter – https://www.theverge.com/2018/11/20/18104366/tumblr-ios-app-child-pornography-removed-from-app-store
A better, more positive tumblr https://staff.tumblr.com/post/180758987165/a-better-more-positive-tumblr
Leskin, Paige. “Tumblr’s NSFW ban is December 17th and users are leaving the site in droves. Here’s Where Users Can Go Instead.” Business Insider, Business Insider, 15 Dec. 2018, www.businessinsider.com/tumblr-alternatives-that-allow-nsfw-2018-12.
Ohlheiser, Abby. “Before Tumblr Announced Plan to Ban Adult Content, It Was a Safe Space for Exploring Identity.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 4 Dec. 2018, www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2018/12/04/before-tumblr-banned-adult-content-it-was-safe-space-exploring-identity/?utm_term=.351d41c1b5c9.
Tumblr Community Guidelines https://www.tumblr.com/policy/en/community
How Tumblr Went from Being the Most Porn-friendly Social Media Site To Banning Porn Lux Alptraum – https://www.theverge.com/2018/12/5/18126451/tumblr-porn-social-media-ban
Tumblr Rolls Out New Content Filtering Tools with Launch Of ‘safe Mode’ Sarah Perez-Sarah Perez – https://techcrunch.com/2017/06/20/tumblr-rolls-out-new-content-filtering-tools-with-launch-of-safe-mode/