Tumblr receives criticism after banning adult content

The blogging platform said it strives to be a ‘safe place for creative expression, self-discovery, and a deep sense of community.’ However, its announcement upset many users.

Tumblr has a reputation for being a social media platform with looser content guidelines, but that’s soon coming to an end.

On Monday, the blogging platform announced that on Dec. 17, it will permanently ban all adult content—wiping out the plethora of communities sharing pornographic material.

Time reported:

According to Tumblr’s Help Center, adult content, including “photos, videos, or GIFs that show real-life human genitals or female-presenting nipples, and any content—including photos, videos, GIFs and illustrations—that depicts sex acts,” will no longer be allowed on the social-networking outlet. However, there are some exceptions to the rule, including breastfeeding photos, nudity found in art, nudity related to political speech and written erotica.

In a blog post, Tumblr’s chief executive, Jeff D’Onofrio, wrote:

Since its founding in 2007, Tumblr has always been a place for wide open, creative self-expression at the heart of community and culture. To borrow from our founder David Karp, we’re proud to have inspired a generation of artists, writers, creators, curators, and crusaders to redefine our culture and to help empower individuality.

Over the past several months, and inspired by our storied past, we’ve given serious thought to who we want to be to our community moving forward and have been hard at work laying the foundation for a better Tumblr. We’ve realized that in order to continue to fulfill our promise and place in culture, especially as it evolves, we must change. Some of that change began with fostering more constructive dialogue among our community members. Today, we’re taking another step by no longer allowing adult content, including explicit sexual content and nudity (with some exceptions).

… It is our continued, humble aspiration that Tumblr be a safe place for creative expression, self-discovery, and a deep sense of community. As Tumblr continues to grow and evolve, and our understanding of our impact on our world becomes clearer, we have a responsibility to consider that impact across different age groups, demographics, cultures, and mindsets. We spent considerable time weighing the pros and cons of expression in the community that includes adult content. In doing so, it became clear that without this content we have the opportunity to create a place where more people feel comfortable expressing themselves.

Following the announcement, Twitter users responded with snark:

Tumblr’s decision to ban adult content follows a recent crisis involving child pornography found on the platform.

The BBC reported:

Tumblr’s new policy comes just weeks after their app was pulled from Apple’s store after images of child abuse were found to have got around the site’s filters.

The company posted on its help site saying the illegal images were immediately taken down when discovered.

“Every image uploaded to Tumblr is scanned against an industry database of known child sexual abuse material, and images that are detected never reach the platform,” it read.

In his blog post, D’Onofrio wrote:

Let’s first be unequivocal about something that should not be confused with today’s policy change: posting anything that is harmful to minors, including child pornography, is abhorrent and has no place in our community. We’ve always had and always will have a zero tolerance policy for this type of content. To this end, we continuously invest in the enforcement of this policy, including industry-standard machine monitoring, a growing team of human moderators, and user tools that make it easy to report abuse. We also closely partner with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the Internet Watch Foundation, two invaluable organizations at the forefront of protecting our children from abuse, and through these partnerships we report violations of this policy to law enforcement authorities. We can never prevent all bad actors from attempting to abuse our platform, but we make it our highest priority to keep the community as safe as possible.

Removing explicit content might seem like a safe bet for Tumblr: Doing so can help the platform avoid future crises in relation to illegal imagery, and less explicit content guidelines might cater to more potential users.

However, the move widely angered its current community.

Many artists are complaining that Tumblr is incorrectly flagging non-pornographic artwork:

The Verge reported:

Tumblr is giving users until the start date of the ban later this month to appeal, but the inaccuracies are causing concern that blanket bans on such content could sweep up inoffensive posts and continue to drive a wedge between creators and the Tumblr platform. The algorithms were originally a part of Safe Mode, which is now being replaced with a full-site ban on adult content.

One person saw a vase and photos of tights get flagged as explicit. The user noted that photos of dildos had flown under the algorithm’s radar, however. Another artist’s illustration of a witch floating among kelp was also incorrectly flagged. Yet another artist saw their illustrations of people running around and swimming get flagged.

Other Tumblr users criticized the platform’s decision, saying the crackdown on explicit content could drive away LGBT members who considered the platform a safe space online.

The Guardian reported:

“Tumblr is known as being this creative environment and space where you can experiment, where you can put a little bit about yourself out there that you aren’t comfortable putting out on other platforms,” [University of Waterloo PhD candidate Jin Sol Kim] said. “The cumulative effect of its design elements allowed for people to express themselves in ways that are different than on other platforms.

“For the LGBTQA community and other marginalized communities, Tumblr has more of an appeal because other platforms have more censorship built in … It created that safe space for them.”

What do you think of Tumblr’s move, PR Daily readers?

(Image via)

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