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Tumblr will ban all adult content on December 17th

The Verge logo The Verge 12/3/2018 Shannon Liao
a close up of text on a black background © Illustration by Alex Castro

Tumblr is permanently banning adult content from its platform as of December 17th in a move that will eradicate porn-related communities on the platform and fundamentally alter how the service is used. The ban includes explicit sexual content and nudity with a few exceptions, the company tells The Verge. Its announcement comes just days after Tumblr was removed from Apple’s iOS App Store over child pornography issues.

Banned content includes photos, videos, and GIFs of human genitalia, female-presenting nipples, and any media involving sex acts, including illustrations. The exceptions include nude classical statues and political protests that feature nudity. The new guidelines exclude text, so erotica remains permitted. Illustrations and art that feature nudity are still okay — so long as sex acts aren’t depicted — and so are breast-feeding and after birth photos.

The policy change takes effect on December 17th. From then on, any explicit posts will be flagged and deleted by algorithms. For now, Tumblr is emailing users who have posted adult content flagged by algorithms and notifying that their content will soon be hidden from view. Posts with porn content will be set to private, which will prevent them from being reblogged or shared elsewhere in the Tumblr community. 

Users have a chance to appeal Tumblr’s decision in situations where they think there’s been a mistake, and the platform admits there’s a chance that the automated tools it’s using could make errors. It’s a process that could take a while, as a bulk of Tumblr posts feature explicit content. Users who run adult blogs can also export their content before the change takes place in order to save what they have.

Since Tumblr was founded in 2007, it has largely turned a blind eye to adult content. The company has tried to shield it from public view through Safe Mode and more stringent search filters. But in recent months — and under the ownership of Verizon’s Oath unit — it began to consider removing content. “We’ve given serious thought to who we want to be to our community moving forward,” CEO Jeff D’Onofrio says in a blog post. “We’ve realized that in order to continue to fulfill our promise and place in culture, especially as it evolves, we must change.” D’Onofrio says Tumblr weighed the pros and cons thoroughly before making its decision. It also decided not to remove explicit accounts because it wanted to give these accounts a chance to post appropriate content instead.

Under Oath, Tumblr has been cleaning up its platform more rapidly than it had done in previous years. In August, Tumblr announced new community guidelines that banned revenge porn, hate speech, and posts that glorified school shootings.

If users mourn the loss of adult content on Tumblr, D’Onofrio claims they’ve got many other solutions. “There are no shortage of sites on the internet that feature adult content. We will leave it to them and focus our efforts on creating the most welcoming environment possible for our community,” he said. That argument will due little to curtail anger over this decision from people who have taken to Tumblr as a safe place to enjoy, share, and discuss their preferred flavor of porn and adult content.

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