Tumblr currently draws around 558 million unique visitors a month. That number has been trending downwards for a while, and will likely trend towards 0 pretty soon after December 17th.
Late last week the microblogging service announced that it will ban “adult content” starting next Monday. In other words: porn. Tumblr is banning porn. It is killing itself. Tumblr, 2007-2018.
“Adult content primarily includes photos, videos, or GIFs that show real-life human genitals or female-presenting nipples, and any content—including photos, videos, GIFs and illustrations—that depicts sex acts,” reads a Tumblr statement announcing the decision.
This is not an insignificant move, especially considering how extraneous Tumblr already is now that the world’s social currency is almost entirely operated by Facebook (including Instagram). Tumblr isn’t just digital stash of your dad’s old Playboy magazine. The Atlantic describes Tumblr as “a home for sexual subcultures that don’t always thrive elsewhere.” Where will these subcultures thrive now? They can’t even show a nipple on Instagram, and while there are queer corners on reddit, its core is merely the front page of a very binary internet.
Tumblr didn’t cite child pornography as a reason for the ban (not a good SEO look), but the reason is probably child pornography. Last month Apple booted the Tumblr app from its App store after Tumblr’s fancy image-scanning tech failed to detect and block so-called child sexual abuse material. Rather than risk another instance of child porn falling through the cracks, it seems Tumblr has elected for full abstinence.
So yeah, no nipples unless they’re connected to breastfeeding, birth or after-birth moments, and health-related situations, such as post-mastectomy or gender confirmation surgery. There are further exceptions: nudity related to political or newsworthy speech, and nudity found in art, such as sculptures and illustrations.
The problem, of course, is that an algorithm in California gets to decide what’s political, newsworthy, or art. And, further, that a huge corporation dictates how we can and cannot express ourselves online (Tumblr is owned by Oath Inc, a subsidiary of Verizon Communications).