The Brief: Starting December 17, 2018, no "adult content" will be allowed on Tumblr.

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DEEP DIVE

Tumblr Bans Porn & Nudity

This will ban users of all ages from posting or viewing adult content, which Tumblr characterizes as “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.”

Still permitted are “female presenting nipples” in relation to breastfeeding, childbirth, and “health-related situations,” as well as erotic text.

In a blog post, Tumblr explained that the purpose of this ban is to make the site more user-friendly for everyone and “to create a place where more people feel comfortable expressing themselves.” They also point out that “there is no shortage of sites on the internet that feature adult content.”

This announcement comes after the Tumblr app was removed from Apple’s App Store for issues with child pornography.

Previously, the site has been known for its NSFW blogs and content. For some, including many women and queer people, Tumblr has served as an alternative to mainstream porn sites. Erotic and pornographic Tumblrs often focused on erotic literature or GIFs, rather than traditional pornography videos. They also tended to have more queer and feminist-friendly content than other free porn sites.

Backlash

Bots Have Been Flagging Non-Pornographic Posts

In a blog post, Tumblr’s CEO admitted that “we know there will be mistakes” as Tumblr is “relying on automated tools to identify adult content and humans to help train and keep our systems in check.” Some of these mistakes have already appeared.

People have been tweeting images of posts that were flagged by Tumblr that are non-sexual and completely safe for work. This highlights the difficulty of the widespread censorship of adult content on a platform where it previously thrived, as well as issues with using bots to identify nuanced images.

Freedom Of Speech

In relation to free speech, pornography has historically been a contentious issue. Free speech in relation to social media is complex as well. In reaction to Tumblr’s announcement, many people have been vocal about their opposition to this move, lamenting that fewer and fewer platforms are allowing for pornography and nudity.

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