In Depth

Tumblr apologises as ‘lazy’ porn ban comes into effect

Company clarifies guidelines in response to user confusion

Tumblr has apologised to fans after innocuous posts disappeared from the platform as a result of a controversial adult content ban. 

The photo-sharing website’s new content guidelines, which came into effect yesterday, bar users from posting images, videos and GIFs that contain “real-life human genitals or female-presenting nipples”.

But the automated systems that Tumblr uses to flag dodgy posts have also been marking up images and videos of things including “turtles, dogs and dolls”, The Verge says. 

Images “containing a bit of skin” or cleavage, such as pictures of models at fashion shows, are being flagged too, “despite not fitting Tumblr’s definition of adult content”, the tech news site adds.

In a blogpost responding to complaints, the company said: “We are sorry that this has not been an easy transition and we know we can do a better job of explaining what we’re doing.”

There are “challenges and limitations” in “correctly flagging tens of billions of GIFs, videos, and photos”, the social media giant explained, adding: “Having a post mistakenly flagged as adult totally sucks - we understand and agree that there have been too many wrongfully flagged posts since we announced the policy change.”

Tumblr has also clarified the “admittedly confusing” original guidelines, says TechCrunch.

Posts containing adult content will be “hidden” from public view and not deleted. Some depictions of nudity will be allowed, such as images of breast-feeding women and artwork featuring nude subjects.

Why has Tumblr banned porn?

Last month Tumblr announced plans to block all x-rated content from its platform, after the company was removed from Apple’s App Store for failing to deal with images of child abuse, the BBC reports. 

The company claimed that its content filters were unable to detect the images but said a return to the App Store was a “priority”, the broadcaster adds. 

Apple has re-listed the Tumblr app since the social network announced its ban on X-rated content. 

How have users reacted?

The guidelines has not been well received by many Tumblr users, with some calling for a widespread boycott of the platform until the guidelines are amended to permit explicit content. 

Some users see the move as a “lazy response to the platform’s inability to moderate its site for highly illegal content”, while others believe the network will “become barren without its adult content”, says TechRadar

Although Tumblr argues that there are plenty of other websites offering X-rated videos, some people think the company is missing the point. 

In 2015, Cosmopolitan described Tumblr as a place where women can “explore their sexuality” without “judgement or fear”.

Casey Fiesler, assistant professor at the University of Colorado, told Wired that Tumblr had also become a space where the LGBT community and sexual assault victims can seek support. 

“Even for fandom participants who don't create adult content themselves, this kind of policy feels like an attack on the community,” Fiesler said. 

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