Fans of Tumblr have decried the new rule as short-sighted and unnecessary. (Illustration by Kristen Lucius, Minneapolis College of Art and Design)

On Dec. 17, Tumblr will erase every piece of adult content on its blogging network. A week ago, Tumblr announced their plans and caused a burst of reaction from followers and users, particularly artists. What once used to represent an open environment for users to share their art and love for fandoms has become persnickety.

Founded in 2009 by David Karp, Tumblr was created to encourage self-expression. Artists, writers and creators provided culture to the media network, where users and followers re-blogged and liked. Such expression, however, was taken into consideration when the media network decided to re-invent itself.

The Tumblr ban has forced the media platform re-invent itself. (Image via The Verge)
The Tumblr ban has forced the media platform re-invent itself. (Image via The Verge)

According to staff, “We’ve realized that to continue to fulfill our promise and place in culture, especially as it evolves, we must change.” There is no shortage of adult content on the internet. If users are disappointed that adult content is banned on the media network, they must look elsewhere. However, that is not to say all content is banned. There are a few exceptions.

The media network defined adult content, coded by fans as Not Safe For Work (NSFW) as, “Adult content primarily includes 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.”

Nudity is a no-no, but not if it’s related to health-related situations like pictures depicting female nipples when breastfeeding, sexual-transformation/gender confirmation surgery and post-mastectomy. Sex acts is a bigger no, but not if it’s written out in the form of erotica and fan fiction. Nudity and sex acts account for pornography.

In a 2016 study from Italy, it was asked how much porn was out there in Tumblr along with Flickr. As it turns out, there’s whole lot of it. They searched through 130 million users and detected only 0.1 percent of users produce porn, while 22.5 percent of users re-blog and share the content. The re-blogging adds more views, as 28.5 percent of users are unintentionally exposed to porn. There are more men ages 25 years old and above who actively watch and search for the NSFW content. So, it looks like they have to read erotica if they don’t want to leave the media network.

But what caused this sudden ban on adult content? The current CEO Jeff D’Onofrio expressed his thoughts on the ban on a staff post and said, “It is our continued, humble aspiration that Tumblr be a safe place for creative expression, self-discovery and a deep sense of community.” A few weeks before the media network announced their plans, the app had difficulties with Apple. The creators removed the app from the Apple, as they found child pornography.

The Help Center said the findings did not reach the private, non-profit organization National Center for Missing & Exploited Children’s (NCMEC) services. NCMEC monitors all the pictures that have been uploaded to the site and detects for any child sexual abuse material. Safety and protection are key, and the findings endangered the platform.

“Let’s first be unequivocal about something that should not be confused with today’s policy change,” D’Onofrio said. “Posting anything that is harmful to minors, including child pornography, is abhorrent and has no place in our community. We’ve always had and always will have a zero tolerance policy for this type of content.”

Many people expressed their emotionally charged opinions via Twitter, though some were humorous about the situation in the TumblrIsOverParty hashtag.

Twitter user @brilliantnbored directed her attention to a few points about the ban. While the social media network did ban adult content for the good and safety of others, they failed to see how other issues should be considered. She listed white supremacy accounts, pro-anorexia/bulimia blogs and school shooter fandoms should be banned to establish a safer community. These accounts and blogs are rooted in violence, racism, hatred and terrorism. Other users pointed out similar sentiments and opinions. In times like these where violence and white supremacy are covered across media, such accounts and views are more inappropriate than nudity.

Perhaps Tumblr should focus on other, more problematic content it advocates for. (Image via Mashable)
Perhaps Tumblr should focus on other, more problematic content it advocates for. (Image via Mashable)

Another user brought up the effect that will fall on fandoms. “Fanfiction.net imploded when it started arbitrarily policing content, LiveJournal imploded with its loosely defined ban on certain NSFW content, and Tumblr will implode with its NSFW content ban. no platform, not ao3 even, is set up to accommodate fandom as it exists now.”

As a result of the bans, many users who created NSFW content have moved to Twitter, where they have been welcomed by other fandoms. Since the move, the relocated creators have posted multiple works of explicit art and shared them.

Because of the shift, Twitter may soon become the new Tumblr. In the long run, fans see the network digging its own grave and burning its business down to the ground. While their fears might be a bit overdramatic, there is a chance the network may undergo a similar backlash to the one Fanfiction.net experienced when they enacted a similar policy. No one likes to be controlled, especially when their content gets taken away.

D’Onofrio concluded his statement, saying, “Like you, we love Tumblr and what it’s come to mean for millions of people around the world. Our actions are out of love and hope for our community. We won’t always get this right, especially in the beginning, but we are determined to make your experience a positive one.”

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