Sexual Health

Tumblr’s New Community Guidelines Ban Adult Content

On December 17th, Social media site Tumblr began its adult content ban. It has been over two weeks since then. But how did it all start?

Users of the site received a warning of the ban two weeks before it began, with a banner at the top on the site and the app telling users of the guideline changes and its implementation. When the warning went up, blogs and posts on the site were flagged as inappropriate, these posts had been marked to be taken down under the new guidelines.

Tumblr brought in the new guidelines after the app was taken off of Apple’s app store, for having too much inappropriate content and after child sexual abuse material was found on the platform.

Since then, many flagged posts were not breaking the guidelines so were marked wrongly, but can be appealed and un-flagged.

It is clear that the algorithm set in place to flag the posts is not working properly, on the basis of the number of wrongly flagged posts and the presence of adult content still on the site. More so, the very post by the Tumblr staff about the types of still acceptable content got flagged as inappropriate.

Before the ban was put in place, it was said that posts with inappropriate content will be removed, however, the inappropriate content wasn’t removed but just hidden from view.

Also, blogs were flagged as inappropriate. When that happens, their profile picture is removed and replaced by a generic one. When going onto their blog a warning comes up saying ‘This Tumblr may contain sensitive content.’ By clicking on ‘View this Tumblr’, their blog will be displayed but their content is flagged, hidden and cannot be viewed.

The reason for the ban was for Tumblr to become “a better, more positive Tumblr” and “a safe place for creative expression, self-discovery, and a deep sense of community”. Tumblr was sold to Yahoo in 2013, which was then acquired by their parent company Verizon in 2017, it was when these organisations owned the site that the guidelines started to become stricter with the ban on the 17th being the biggest action taken.

Tumblr users are not happy with the changes, as the site has been an open space for mostly uncensored expression. But these new guidelines have mostly put a stop to that. Many of its users have argued against the claim that Tumblr will become a better, more positive website; as right-extremist groups such as white supremacists are still present on the site. More so, under the falsely flagged posts are positive and expressive pictures, such as people holding pride flags.

The ban on adult content is deeply flawed; with a lot of adult content still not flagged and appropriate posts flagged and hidden. Moreover, the ban has caused some negative consequences. A lot of users have left the site because of the strictness of the ban (Tumblr now has stricter guidelines than Instagram and Facebook). The many blogs that have been deleted by its users, will mean less traffic and therefore decrease the website’s revenue.

Some of the site’s users planned a boycott of the site on December 17th to stand up against this ban. The idea behind it was to cause a drop in Tumblr’s revenue for that day and show the staff their dissatisfaction. The boycott, however, wasn’t very effective as it was ignored by a lot of users.

What do you think about the ban?