Today is the day the Tumblr community dreads: The social blogging site continued its policy shift to rid the site of all “NSFW” content, despite a dramatic decline in its users and largely negative media coverage.
After a poorly designed blog post from Tumblr CEO Jeff D’Onofrio who badly needed the help of a crisis communication expert, in which D’Onofrio claimed that banning adult content would create “a better, more positive Tumblr” and introduced the phrase “female nipples” into the popular vernacular, Tumblr users endured two weeks of terror and outrage.
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Beyond the loss of access to content – including photos and discussions of gender identity, countless works of fanart and other creations that have long been allowed, if not encouraged, to flourish on the network –many of us contested with the disproportionate harm the policy would inflict on sex workers and marginalized communities.
Some sex workers on Tumblr say the site’s new ban on adult content is dangerous, as they will be pressured to seek clients in person rather than online. They say the Tumblr ban robs them of their livelihood. pic.twitter.com/RvSRbnVkqv
– AJ + (@ajplus) December 17, 2018
No one falls into the trap of a “more positive Tumblr” when you do away with the “female nipples” and hand-drawn sexual depictions, but leave the white Nazi and supremacist content in plain sight. Search for “nipples” and the site doesn’t return any content, but search for “white supremacy” and you get results galore.
Tumblr is probably giving in to the double pressure of not being able to control its child pornography issues and to the puritanical standards of the Apple Store for wanting things to be perfectly clean (except for the Nazis).
Since the announcement, frustration with Tumblr has been expressed in memes about the ban. This kind of tongue-in-cheek creativity showcases Tumblr users’ unique sense of humor and shows why many of us have found it to be an appealing place to hang out.
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Tumblr has been loaded for weeks with poorly reported posts, with everything from photos of loaves of bread to the staff ban announcement post itself marked as inappropriate by the site’s cumbersome automated content hash bots. It’s almost funny when it’s not that alarming.
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With “tens of billions” of media assets to sift through, Tumblr today asked for patience and said its bots would improve with comments. Most recent staff position that has increased– notably no D’Onofrio – takes a slightly more conciliatory tone, acknowledging that they could have communicated their intentions better and tried to assert that Tumblr would still be a safe space for its sizable LGBTQ community to explore their sexuality.
Just, you know, as long as there isn’t any sex acts or nipples involved.
if tumblr had said “hey we let the porn bot thing go on too long and now it’s so out of control our app got destroyed we have no way to fix it WE’RE SORRY TO HAVE FUCKED UP “instead of trying to make the decision sound like fake alarm clock bullshit, it would have been a lot better
– deck these BALLS🎄 (@bananawarmer) December 17, 2018
If you are not a Tumblr user, you might be puzzled as to why so many people are so furious and actively mourning the loss of this type of material. As D’Onofrio suggested, there are other places where you can find adult content. Still, the wide variety of posts on Tumblr and the inclusive sex-positivity that permeated the site as a whole cannot be replicated.
“It’s not that this content can’t be found elsewhere; it’s just that you probably won’t find it sandwiched between a Queer Eye Meme and one character analysis of “Wonder Woman” elsewhere on the Web “, JP Brammer wrote for the Washington Post.
To sum up: Tumblr content has played an important role in people’s self-discovery and in forming communities that can serve as lifelines; sex workers are denied the livelihood they earned on a safe platform where they could control their own presentation; reported artists are leaving en masse, also risking losing significant income streams, as their absence affects all fandoms. Everything seems to come undone at the seams.
Other users are also leaving Tumblr behind in solidarity with what they see as censorship and damaging removal of art, employment, and representation. A “Logout protest”Is in effect today, where users do not log into the site for 24 hours.
Imagine a world where @tumblr had cleaned up porn robots, child pornography and Nazis years ago instead of releasing an algorithm that cannot distinguish bread from body parts. #tumblrboycott #tumblrpurge
– Steph S (@wickedcritta) December 17, 2018
As Brammer explained in moving Washington post room on how his self-esteem has been shaped on the network and the larger issues at stake:
[Having a Tumblr] meant you were probably gay; the platform is a hub for LGBTQ discourse. But being on Tumblr also meant you had a quirky sense of humor, an interest in social justice, and, of course, a penchant for utter filth. […]
It is a setback not only for the many sex workers, the kink fans and artists who populate the site, but also to the Tumblr philosophy itself, which has attracted so many queer people and made us feel at home, especially those of us in remote areas. country with no immediate community to connect to. Explicit content played a crucial role in creating this space, so it’s no surprise that the ban was widely received as The death knell of Tumblr.
The Washington Post made murderous coverage on this issue, pouring hot tea all over Tumblr’s policy change:
It’s unclear what Tumblr’s long-term outlook will be after the ban, but I’ve seen enough content creators who left after their blogs were flagged, and friends and mutuals who left. same pace, to feel a deep sadness when I consider the Tumblr that was. A real sense of belonging, security and shared creativity in the areas where I was hiding is lost. It’s the end of an era.
What is Tumblr for me? The site has helped me give myself a platform and an audience as a writer; it gave me some of my best friends; it was a space where one felt understood, or at least never alone. But my personal feelings are unimportant compared to the people who see their livelihoods disappear and those whose life support communities are rooted in Tumblr and now uprooted. Because of what is being put aside and fed to dysfunctional bots, this should be considered an internet tragedy.
I don’t see Tumblr disappearing entirely into the ether (yet), but the freest and most open social network no longer exists.
Everyone pays a shot for tumblr today. The website that gave me an audience and led to my career! The website that caused my anxiety disorder! RIP in peace, beautiful monstrosity
– Kate Leth (@kateleth) December 17, 2018
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