Why the NSFW content ban on Tumblr is doing more harm than good

RIP Tumblr.

I’m not exaggerating when I say that. On the 17th of December, we might see the end of the blogging platform as we know it.

In November, Tumblr was removed from the App Store and Google Play because of child pornography being shared on it. Although steps were taken to remove this material, Tumblr had to come up with a way to stop the problem from popping up again. Their solution? To ban all NSFW content from its site. CEO Jeff D’Onofrio said ‘photos, videos, or GIFs that show real-life human genitals or female-presenting nipples’ would be removed from the site.

Whilst this might seem like a great idea, considering that a lot of Tumblr users are minors and don’t need to be engaging with pornography, fact is that Tumblr is more than a porn website, as it has often been seen as. Although there is a lot of porn on the site, it is coming from only 1/10th of a percent of its users, and most of these are actually porn bots trying to flog third party websites. A majority of the site’s users use it for political discourse, fandom belonging and LGBTQ+ and feminist identity exploration.

The ban will be implemented through the use of algorithms which will weed out NSFW content and ‘female-presenting nipples’ (I write that separately because I don’t think they’re NSFW. #FreeTheNipple). Of course, this is already going horribly (and quite hilariously) wrong, with so many people posting about their non-NSFW content which has been flagged.

This post by Tumblr blog   Nevver   was flagged. The kitty looks shocked because he’s wondering why Tumblr thinks he is NSFW. He is suitable for everywhere, okay?

This post by Tumblr blog Nevver was flagged. The kitty looks shocked because he’s wondering why Tumblr thinks he is NSFW. He is suitable for everywhere, okay?

But that’s not the only reason that this ban is a bad idea. Tumblr helped LGBTQ+ individuals find who they are. Sex workers are also worried about what this new kind of censorship will do for them. Before, their content was marked as sensitive or explicit, which meant that it was more difficult for minors to access. This allowed them to market their products safely. Now, with the ban, many sex workers will find themselves making losses financially. Even more unfortunate is the fact that the ban is coming into play on the day which just happens to be International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers.

Sexual content will cease to exist on Tumblr after this date, but so will a lot of art and identity-centric discourse.

The worst thing is that white supremacist and Nazi blogs and posts continue to thrive. These dangerous blogs contain violent, racially charged abuse, and extremist ideology. But it seems like Tumblr ain’t bothered.