Owl pics? Here's how Tumblr censor bots are being fooled

NOTE: For all latest, breaking news related to Tumblr adult content ban as well as its alternatives, head here.

Update (December 09):

We have stumbled upon two more platforms – Explicitr and Suffra – that are also pitching themselves as Tumblr alternatives. More info on them here.

Original story follows:

From its iOS app getting deleted to the company announcing a sort of blanket ban on porn, a lot has happened over at Tumblr in the past few weeks. Now that the dust has settled down, we’re seeing users have either migrated to other platforms, or are looking for alternatives. Some are even launching petitions or planning protests.

However, it has now come to light that there are users who are trying to test the limits of Tumblr’s content censoring algorithm. Some screenshots and details posted in a blog post on Tumblr (which has now been deleted, but not before social media picked it up) reveal that the censorbots can be fooled by superimposing pics of certain size on the original content.

The following tweet shows how someone apparently managed to fool Tumblr’s algorithm by transplanting an owls image on a pic that was marked as explicit by Tumblr’s censoring bots. It’s worth mentioning that this was only achieved when the owl pic was scaled 50%. Take a look:

There are many ways in which software’s detection of objects can be fooled and object transplantation is apparently one way. Someone on this very Twitter thread pointed towards a recent research on this:

https://twitter.com/ultraspank/status/1071128873520259072

So what does this mean? Can owl pics save your NSFW content? Well, we aren’t sure at the moment, but even if that’s the case, Tumblr may tweak their algorithm to plug in this loop hole. For what it’s worth, chatter on Twitter suggests the company is using open_nsfw software from its parent Yahoo.

https://twitter.com/an_gremlin/status/1071134757356859392
https://twitter.com/mkinyon/status/1070088233420152839

And as others have pointed out, the software has some major discrepancies.

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Himanshu Arora

My interest in technology and writing started back in 2010. Since then, I have written for many leading publications, including Computerworld, GSMArena, TechSpot, HowtoForge, LinuxJournal, and MakeTechEasier to name a few. Here at PiunikaWeb, my work involves covering on daily basis the biggest tech stories as well as scoops that you won't find anywhere else.