A week on from the adult content ban – Has Tumblr changed for the worse?

The sometimes controversial social media site Tumblr caused ire at the start of the month with promises of an adult content ban – but has anything actually changed?


Just over a week ago now, people were prepared for an apocalypse on popular social media site Tumblr. Newer users were threatening mass exodus while fandom veterans grimly recalled the dark days of LiveJournal’s Strikethrough and Boldthrough.

But what was it actually about? Well, at the beginning of the month, Tumblr announced that, as of December 17 the site would no longer allow adult content, including genitalia and ‘female presenting nipples’.

Understandably, fans were unimpressed. The site already had a supposed, if arguably ineffective, safe filter, and indeed when Tumblr was founded, happily welcomed adult content, provided it was tagged.

Many users were seriously worried, especially the sex workers who use the site as a way of finding income, especially after the prevention of solicitation on other social media sites and the introduction of anti sex worker legislation in the US. For those who don’t fit the porn industry’s narrow ideas of ‘f**kable’ Tumblr has been a boon, until now.

And a week on, has anything actually happened? On the surface no. Many users boycotted the site on the 17th itself in protest, but Tumblr seems to have taken little notice. A few people have left the site, but the large majority have chosen to stay, unimpressed by the alternatives of Twitter (too hard to use for many) and Pillowfort, which has its own issues.

But the majority of people have stayed…and so have the porn bots. So, you can’t look at classical statues and art (supposedly exempt from the adult content ban), but you’ll still get graphic sex bots following you.

The site was also reinstated on the App Store, after having been removed for adult content (including the bots and child porn users had been complaining about for years). The reinstatement of the app has prompted a flurry of bad reviews – and yet the App Store is instead showing reviews from a year ago.

Steve Jobs himself had porn banned from the App Store in 2010, saying “Folks who want porn can buy an android.” But Apple’s stranglehold on tech means that sites like Tumblr are beholden to the whims of a megacorporation with 1950s values.

At a glance, the purging of adult content might seem like a response to the sheer volumes of invasive porn bots, which like and follow posts indiscriminately, regardless of relevance – even those talking about sex repulsed asexuals.  The site has also been plagued for years by paedophiles that use the site for their own purposes, much to the irritation and horror of users, who just want to talk about more innocuous interests.

Said interests include a popular Japanese fashion style, lolita, which has been purged due to the words association with paedophiles. And yet, whilst all this is going on, the site happily allows Nazis and White Supremacists to continue sharing hate speech and other vile content quite happily. The double standard is certainly something to ponder.

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