Not child porn, this could be real reason behind Tumblr's NSFW/explicit content ban

Himanshu Arora Himanshu Arora Jan 07, 2019 News, Tumblr

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

I still remember the day when we suddenly started seeing a lot of reports about the Tumblr app missing from the Apple App Store. Then there were also reports that the Safe Mode option has stopped working (see original story here).

PiunikaWeb was the first publication to highlight the matter, as acknowledged by the likes of Fox News as well.

Coming back, when all this continued to happen for over a day, I started getting a feeling that something big has happened with Tumblr. Soon, the company acknowledged the problem, blaming the discovery of child porn on their platform as the reason for the issue.

Turned out Apple booted the Tumblr app from their app marketplace after such content came into Apple’s notice. As Tumblr acknowledged the problem, the company said they are working to fix it on highest priority.

We’re committed to helping build a safe online environment for all users, and we have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to media featuring child sexual exploitation and abuse. As this is an industry-wide problem, we work collaboratively with our industry peers and partners like NCMEC to actively monitor content uploaded to the platform. Every image uploaded to Tumblr is scanned against an industry database of known child sexual abuse material, and images that are detected never reach the platform. A routine audit discovered content on our platform that had not yet been included in the industry database. We immediately removed this content. Content safeguards are a challenging aspect of operating scaled platforms. We’re continuously assessing further steps we can take to improve and there is no higher priority for our team

Tumblr then took nearly a couple of weeks to fix the problem. The solution, as we all know by now, was to ban all adult content from their platform.

That, needless to say, came as a big surprise to everyone (especially to those Tumblr users who were directly affected by it, like sex workers). And the issue was highlighted by media as well. Take a look:

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Of course, Tumblr’s ban on adult content also spawned hilarious memes on the Internet. Here are some examples:

And the way Tumblr has gone about implementing the ban is another nightmare altogether. Here’s a recent example:

Regardless of the yardstick you choose to measure it, nuking all the adult content in response to child porn problem was a bit too much. So this brings us to the question that was there something else that prompted Tumblr to delete everything adult.

Apparently yes. Quoting Cookie Cyboid from their article on Medium:

To my eyes the answer lies in the twin headed anti-sex demon that is SESTA/FOSTA. These recently passed laws effectively poke holes in section 230, a 1996 addition to the Communications Decency Act, which states: ‘No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider’

For example, if someone decides to tweet a libelous rant about me, I can’t sue Twitter for allowing it on their platform. But under SESTA/FOSTA sites are responsible for any sex work advertisements hosted on their sites servers, whether they know the content is there or not. States can now sue tech companies who have content related to sex work on their websites

We could find several others on Twitter who seem to agree with the notion that Tumblr’s crackdown was mainly due to SESTA/FOSTA, just that the action came after Apple booted the iOS app from their App Store.

https://twitter.com/reetae27/status/1078559518513078272
https://twitter.com/libraryofundead/status/1078924638498029568
https://twitter.com/Jamie_Foxworthy/status/1078630891356934144
https://twitter.com/feelingcerulean/status/1079399104130809856

What do you think? Are these laws behind the Tumblr porn ban? Share your thoughts on the matter in the comments section below. And in case you aren’t aware, you can learn more about SESTA/FOSTA by heading here.

NOTE: PiunikaWeb has covered in detail the Tumblr adult content ban as well as the platform’s alternatives, check out all updates here.

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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.