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Tumblr, a safe haven for adult content since 2007, is finally banning it

Tumblr, a safe haven for adult content since 2007, is finally banning it
[Photo: Tracy Le Blanc/Pexels]

First Starbucks banned porn, now Tumblr is, too.

The company announced today that adult content will not be allowed on Tumblr, “regardless of how old you are,” beginning on December 17. The new policy comes just days after Tumblr was understandably removed from Apple’s iOS App Store after child pornography—which is illegal on Tumblr and all platforms run by humans with souls—slipped through the platform’s filters and was caught by Apple. Now, Tumblr is banning all adult content, which it defines as 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.” (No word whether furniture porn counts, but breastfeeding-related posts and gender confirmation pics are fine.)

Tumblr has been a bit of a safe haven for adult content since it was founded in 2007. While the company has tried to shield such content from public view through Safe Mode and more stringent search filters, anyone who had the will could usually find their way to a trove of NSFW material. In 2013, 11.4% of Tumblr’s 200,000 most visited domains were adult.

Since Verizon’s Oath took over Tumblr, however, it has struggled with how to deal with the massive amount of porn on the site. In 2013, Tumblr issued new guidelines for handling adult content on the site, and the company unveiled a “safe mode” in 2017 to protect viewers with delicate sensibilities, but reportedly was considering removing porn entirely. The incident that led Apple to remove the Tumblr app from its store was apparently the tipping point. Now, after December 17, any explicit posts will be flagged and deleted by algorithms.

Tumblr is notifying users via email who have posted adult content that their content will be set to private, so that it can’t be reblogged or shared on Tumblr. Users can choose to attempt to appeal the decision. Users who run adult blogs can export their content before the change takes place.

Tumblr blogs that have been labeled as “explicit” will still be allowed, but have a set of new rules they must follow in order to stay on the site. Written erotica, nude art sculptures, and illustrations are also still allowed on Tumblr, and it’s still TBD how Tumblr’s moderation team will decide what crosses the line.

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