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Dear Tumblr: Banning “Adult Content” Will Harm Sex-Positive Communities (www.eff.org)
155 points by DiabloD3 8 days ago | hide | past | web | 141 comments | favorite





The reason they banned porn, is not because of some sudden guilt about porn. It's because, apparently, there had been a lot of child porn that was getting published. Tumblr seems like it doesn't have the resources to fight off child porn, and AI is too dumb to know what is underage or not. So now they are just banning all porn. That's why Apple banned their app from the app store recently.

The bad thing is that, this will absolutely kill the platform. Porn and porn gifs have always been popular on Tumblr for as far as I can remember. I'm not a Tumblr user, but this is just a fact anyone that has ever even casually browsed it knows.


You don't need an AI to fight child porn, the FBI publishes a huge database of hashes that make it very easy to fight it, and if I remember the Tumblr reponse to the Apple ban correctly, they've been using it for a while.

That being said, I also believe the apple ban wasn't explicitly because of cp, but also because an app known for NSFW conflicts with their "image", in the same manner ad companies also refuse to associate with it, but couldn't use that as the reason due to the PR backlash Tumblr is getting now


I don't think it's that kind of child pornography. It's more the self produced, coming of age, scantily clad variety that is non-trivial to moderate.

The most offensive to modern sensibilities (and advertisers) isn't the naked people, but the gore, self harm, and extreme fetish communities.


This still prompts a question, though: does this not happen on all social media?

Ok, Facebook presumably dodges the problem with privacy settings. But it's no harder to post an underage selfie on Reddit or Twitter than on Tumblr, and those sites have much larger userbases. Their apps haven't been hit by Apple, nor have they ever talked about resorting to outright adult-content bans to control it.

So what's the difference? Are there any major theories other than "tumblr's site moderation tools sucked" and "tumblr's moderation team was way too small"?


Can you imagine the irreparable harm caused to society by teenagers taking half naked selfies?

It's not the selfies that are the problem. It's the poor boundaries that they create and the leveraged shame that is really harmful. It's very hard to put a hard barrier or rule about what kind of nipples are okay to show, as the EFF is implying.

On the other hand, there's just as much harm from the no-shame communities - look up pro-ana for an example, and the realize that groups like this exist for many forms of self harm, including cutting, drug abuse, and (and this one is personal to me) rape.

https://youtu.be/Y7lYeRqhQ9Q is a good example of how young people can be drawn into these sorts of toxic relationships. And he worst part is: most of the warning signs aren't a problem in and of themselves. It is only in patterns and degrees that you realize that there's something deeply wrong, and the behavior has crossed a line. The lines aren't bright and clear - but, to some extent, the people who wander even near and don't immediately turn away are the ones you know are willing to cross it.


I don't have to imagine, I can read a news article from several years ago about how a teenager did just this from//to//in an Arab country and it made global headlines because exactly that.

So is the issue the teen or the Arab country?

Hashes of what, the image or video content? Wouldn't those be ridiculously easy to circumvent by uploaders via, e.g., changing one pixel?


> PhotoDNA is a technology developed by Microsoft [...]

Some other services by MS that might build on this:

* https://www.microsoft.com/cognitive-services

* https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/azure/cognitive-services


> but also because an app known for NSFW conflicts with their "image"

Anecdotal, but I once found overt prostitution on a classifieds app on the App Store. It’s an app with no category for such services and an age rating of 4+. We’re talking full blown nudity, with a phone number and a link to another site with yet more photos. I know (thought) Apple cared about that, so I reported the situation. They shrugged it off and said it was the developer’s responsibility. I pointed out that web browsers have a 17+ rating exactly because they allow access to that type of content. They still didn’t care.


Safari is full of porn and by that same measure so are iOS Chrome and iOS Firefox. I'm pretty sure Twitter is full of porn too. DMM, a porn company has an iOS App as I think do several VR porn companies.

If they have the capability to effectively ban all porn, they have the capability to fight child porn. This is something every legal site which allows image uploads has to deal with - every platform capable of hosting images will be used to host child porn, that's axiomatic. Yet somehow 4chan, Reddit and other large image-centric sites are at least willing to put in the effort without banning adult content wholesale.

And, just like Youtube suddenly "discovering" an entire industry of exploitative child videos on their platform, I have a difficult time believing Tumblr's owners didn't know this was an issue, given how widespread NSFW content is on their platform. The truth is, Tumblr was willing to look the other way on child porn until it directly harmed their monetization efforts.


It's possible it is also related to trying to lure more advertisers, but I see that as a losing strategy. It's an unfortunate truth that porn is a big user driver for Tumblr. I'm not sure it will be worth it. I honestly would almost bet they back track on this.

> If they have the capability to effectively ban all porn, they have the capability to fight child porn.

Why do people insist on spreading their uneducated unsubstantiated opinions? Do you know this is true? Why don't you link some papers showing how porn detection neural nets can accurately detect age as well.


> Why do people insist on spreading their uneducated unsubstantiated opinions? Do you know this is true?

Yes, I do know it's true. It's actually easier to detect child porn than it is to detect all porn, because there's a standard tool[0] that's used by ~all major platforms, along with a database of known images of child pornography managed by ICMEC[1]. As new images are discovered, those are added to the list as well.

Source: I personally know engineers who have worked on detecting child pornography for platforms like Tumblr and Facebook, for the purpose of filtering them out and reporting potential child abuse.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PhotoDNA

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Centre_for_Missi...


I think the issue is that most of the underage content is self published, and not coming from other parts of the web.

This makes checking against the ICMEC database worthless, as the content is brand new and has never been online before.


> I think the issue is that most of the underage content is self published, and not coming from other parts of the web.

That actually doesn't matter; it's straightforward to find the networks of people sharing underage content. It is very rare that someone will only be sharing fresh, self-published content which is never shared or reposted by anyone else who also shares content in the ICMEC database at any point.

If you're analyzing content in a sheer vacuum, yes, this would be a problem, but you're not - you're analyzing content which is spread across a social network, and you're looking for networks which are intentionally seeking out and sharing this material. It is a much more straightforward problem than most people realize; it just requires the right staffing and resources (ie, problems which are directly solved by money).

> This makes checking against the ICMEC database worthless, as the content is brand new and has never been online before.

On the contrary; that's the exact mechanism by which the ICMEC database gets expanded.

This is why even the DOJ opposed SESTA and FOSTA - websites that are used by sex workers are also great places to find and rescue victims of sex trafficking. Most sex workers aren't trafficking victims, but a large number of trafficking victims are listed on those sites as well. It was one of the primary ways that the DOJ would rescue victims and prosecute traffickers. With those sites gone, traffickers have gone underground, and it's much more difficult to find them.


It's probably possible, but you'd need gigabytes of child porn to train a NN to detect child porn versus porn in general.

I would say that CP is a strict subset of porn, therefore if you have the ability to ban all of the latter you have the ability to ban all of the former. This ability is rather useless in this discussion though, since we'd really rather have the ability to ban all the CP while leaving the rest of the adult content alone.

"It's because, apparently, there had been a lot of child porn that was getting published."

OR! It is pisses off advertisers. Large advertisers don't want their ads on a page with porn and will yank budgets if it happens. Having to police which UGC tumbler page uses porn + ads is also impossible.


> The reason they banned porn, is not because of some sudden guilt about porn. It's because, apparently, there had been a lot of child porn that was getting published.

It's not because of child pornography. It's because Congress passed a law that makes the platform criminally liable[0] if sex workers use the platform (even if said sex work is legal).

Child porn is a solvable problem (it takes some engineering work and some money, but as stated in other comments, it's a solved problem[1], which is why most other sites don't struggle with it). On the other hand, there is literally no way for a site like Tumblr to comply with SESTA and FOSTA at that scale without effectively banning all pornography and other content that could be construed as facilitating sex between people.

[0] https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2018/03/how-congress-censored-...

[1] From the point of view of the platform, that is, not that child porn doesn't still exist


> It's because, apparently, there had been a lot of child porn that was getting published.

Not directly.

CP has been a problem on Tumblr for long time. I've seen many complaints about them not being fast enough to stamp on it when reported (presumably due to a lack of resources, policing image content on such a site must be a gargantuan task).

What has changed now, and what many believe is the driving force behind this policy change, is in part the threat of their revenue steam being affected due to advertisers taking notice, and more pressingly ATM app stores getting wary. Specifically Apple dropped their app from the iStore in November.


There is a free anti CP tool fielded by Microsoft, PhotoDNA.

I said this elsewhere, but I believe the problem is that underage Tumblr users are posting photos of themselves.

As far as I know, that tool detects photos that have been previously identified as underage, not the age of the person in the photo, and whether or not it contains lewd content.


That's true, PhotoDNA identifies existing pictures even through many transformations (crop, rotate, scale, flip).

I read that 1% of tumblr content falls under the ban and only ~20% consumes it.

Yes, the exact guidelines are going to be vague, that’s a good thing. It might just show they understand that it should be okay to allow art and breastfeeding and other forms of nudity that aren’t explicitly pornographic.

I feel like this article isn’t making good faith arguments. Every single sentence is trying to tear down Tumblr’s announcement word by word without attempting to understand their position, making the worst case assumption about their intent rather than assuming reason, and Tumblr’s position seems to be completely reasonable. Tumblr isn’t for porn anymore, just like most other web sites on the planet.

Plus, if they lost a spot on the Apple App Store due to porn, then the title isn’t true, removing the porn and getting back on the App Store will definitely make their situation better.


"I feel like this article isn’t making good faith arguments."

The EFF is an advocacy organization. It definitely "advocates", and does not generally make "rational" arguments. If you always like everything they do, you may have a hard time seeing this, but if you've ever seen them speak about something you are either ambivalent about (probably a lot of people on this matter today) or even outright disagree with them on (as I have), it becomes clear.

I'm not particularly trying to be critical of them here. They advocate; it's what they say they do, it's what they are set up to do, and they're generally in a space that nobody else is even close to advocating for. But I do think it's important to understand them for what they are.


I don't have an opinion either way about the EFF especially, but I disagree that being an advocacy organization means you don't / can't make rational arguments. I think rational arguments should be expected of everyone; if you're part of an advocacy organization then presumably you think the arguments in favor of that organization's positions are winning, and so you should present those arguments.

Not every position needs to be advocated for.


I generally feel it hurts an advocacy group's credibility when they advocate for something without a rational argument. (And it's not just the EFF that do this.)

It's an interesting dynamic in the role of advocacy...


You can make rational arguments, but the rational advocacy organization quickly learns that it's a great deal less effective than hyperbole and emotion.

And if you want to bemoan that, hey, I'm right there next to you, but, here we are....


Sincerely, I thank you for this post. In our current era, many people blindly follow what their echo chamber has to say. Your post is a refreshing reminder on the difference between advocating a position, as opposed to merely presenting one. The nuance is lost on many.

"It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought, without fully accepting it" is an axiom I always have to remind myself of (and sometimes, frustratingly, others when discussing contentious matters).

Just because one is able to dissect and understand a position that exists and how it functions logically doesn't mean it has their support. After all, I hold the opinion that if you can't articulate a counterargument to your own and truly appreciate its structure, it's probably not the "hill you want to die on".


Pornography is not just removed from the app, but also the website. Previously, apple users could browse to the website. Now, they no longer have this option. This is worse.

Also, the burn-down-the-world response to child pornography by removing every single female-presenting nipple is such an overwhelming response it's hard to believe this is appropriate. Even assuming they could do it correctly - their current implementation flags pictures of chrysanthemums as lewd content.


> the burn-down-the-world response to child pornography by removing every single female-presenting nipple is such an overwhelming response it's hard to believe this is appropriate.

They are not removing every single nipple. And the EFF is criticizing them for not removing every single nipple, complaining that it's "subjective" and will "leave a lot of people on uncertain ground."


> They are not removing every single nipple.

It's worth taking care to distinguish what's being done from what the new policy is. The policy exempts artistic, political, and some other non-erotic uses of nudity, which is good to point out. But so far, the actual outcome is that nudity is being flagged and removed with no regard for context (or, say, the difference between a human and a statue). Some of it is being restored on appeal some of the time, but that's very different from "not removed".

Admittedly it's quite hard to draw a specific conclusion about how non-sexual nudity is being handled, since what's being removed is basically the random output of an untrained classifier. (Which, incidentally, leaves all of their users on uncertain ground.) But the examples of many other websites with similar rules suggest a major chilling affect on ostensibly approved content, either because it's not restored or because takedown-and-restore patterns prevent normal engagement with material.


Agreed. And I don’t know the details of what is actually being done to remove porn, but I assume it’s an implementation detail that is temporary, has some problems (which Tumblr acknowledged), and is being worked on.

The policy - the goal - is what’s important, and what I was referring to, not today’s rollout hiccups. The exaggeration in the above comment and in the article are what I’m reacting to. Tumblr is not intending to remove “every single nipple”, they are taking down porn, which has and always will have some gray areas at the edges. The hyperbole and exaggeration that they’re intending to ban any and all nudity, when they’re not, weakens the arguments against Tumblr.

It’s not like any of this discussion will change Tumblr’s decision, but if people want to make a point of criticizing their decision, the strongest arguments will show why their stated policy is bad, not put up a strawman that Tumblr is trying to censor socially acceptable nudity when they’ve already stated that’s not their goal.


Right. So "artistic" nipples are fine (what is art?), as are breastfeeding nipples, nipples after several procedures are fine, and of course, animal nipples are okay, as well as male-presenting nipples.

We've seen in the past "no nipples some exceptions" from Facebook, and if enforcement there is any indication, I'm not convinced there will be a practical difference.


> Tumblr is not intending to remove “every single nipple”, they are taking down porn, which has and always will have some gray areas at the edges.The hyperbole and exaggeration that they’re intending to ban any and all nudity, when they’re not, weakens the arguments against Tumblr.

I don't think this represents Tumblr's statement accurately. The policy bans all adult content not meeting a small list of exceptions, not just porn plus ambiguous edge cases. The ban offers no exemptions for educational content, and its health and reproduction exemptions are limited to nipples - all genitalia outside of art and political content is apparently banned. Female-presenting toplessness is only permitted under narrow conditions.

This is not a small difference. A health-class video of a birth is banned. NYC's Outdoor Topless Fiction Appreciation Society couldn't post pictures of legal, non-sexual toplessness in Central Park. As written, National Geographic photos of tribes which are regularly topless are banned. (They might be news, but not "newsworthy speech".)

It's not "every single nipple", agreed, but there's no attempt at all to limit this to porn. Tumblr is trying to censor socially acceptable nudity - not all of it, but their stated goal includes several things which are socially acceptable.

> it’s an implementation detail that is temporary, has some problems (which Tumblr acknowledged), and is being worked on. The policy - the goal - is what’s important, and what I was referring to, not today’s rollout hiccups... a strawman that Tumblr is trying to censor socially acceptable nudity when they’ve already stated that’s not their goal.

Here, I think we disagree less on theory than on faith in Tumblr(/Oath/Verizon) engineering, and so I suppose the matter will be settled by fact eventually. What follows is just an outline of my current thinking.

I expect they'll eventually get an implementation which doesn't flag pictures at near-random, yes. But I expect they will never get past a state where any nudity less famous than David or Phan Thi Kim Phuc will be flagged and require a cumbersome human approval. Accounts focused on clearly-permitted nudity like Femen protests or breastfeeding positivity will end up banned for repeated flags and need human un-banning, if that process even exists reliably.

All prior evidence from Tumblr says that simple, well-documented bugs are likely to go unfixed for years, and "don't take down certain types of nudity" is not simple. And if I may be permitted some cynicism, I expect that both Apple's action and Oath's apparent business plans will make false positives far more appealing than false negatives.

If nudity of all types is restricted in practice, and I fully expect that outcome, then the stated goal is only evidence against malice. This obviously isn't a criminal matter, but the culpability framework is helpful. I agree that the general censorship of nudity was not 'purposeful', but I think the initial rollout was either 'negligent' or 'reckless' and running the planned full takedown on the 17th using the same algorithm would be 'knowing'. Past a certain point, it's not really worth discussing intent because everyone involved ought to be aware that their actions couldn't possibly fulfill that intent.


To be clear, they lost a spot on the Apple App Store due to child porn. I don't have a leg in this race. Don't use Tumblr, never have and likely never will but the decision is at best questionable considering the size of some of the communities they are shunting off the service.

I've read that they were planning this change for months before the App Store incident.

> I've read that they were planning this change for months before the App Store incident.

They were likely planning this since March, which is when FOSTA and SESTA were passed.


FWIW It should be noted that there's already been documented cases in which tumblr has marked artwork and paintings as adult content to be removed and confirmed as such upon appeal.

>I feel like this article isn’t making good faith arguments. Every single sentence is trying to tear down Tumblr’s announcement word by word without attempting to understand their position, making the worst case assumption about their intent rather than assuming reason, and Tumblr’s position seems to be completely reasonable.

Good lawyers can't trust faith to be held accountable, they need everything to be written in explicit terms in order to ensure that if a gentleman's handshake isn't enough then a lawsuit is.

With that said, I believe it is up to Tumblr to prove that they are acting in good faith; so far they have failed to do so in the most basic sense by simply blanket flagging most content as NSFW and turning against a huge portion of their user base in the first place to appease advertisers.


I don't believe in good faith arguments when it comes to services operated by big corporations: regardless of the good intentions of the humans originally involved, the corporate machine at some point takes over, and rules are enforced in such a way as to maximise share/stakeholder value and/or to minimize their risk.

If something is not explicitly allowed under the rules, I wouldn't trust that it's going to be allowed by some discerning human of goodwill.


They didn't lost their app store spot due to porn, they lost it to child porn

> Yes, the exact guidelines are going to be vague, that’s a good thing. It might just show they understand that it should be okay to allow art and breastfeeding and other forms of nudity that aren’t explicitly pornographic.

"Vagueness" and room for interpretation is not inherently bad, as you point out. But it's dangerous when your policies for automated filtering are vague, because filters almost always play it safe and end up creating a large number of false positives (i.e. wrongful content takedowns).


>without attempting to understand their position, making the worst case assumption about their intent rather than assuming reason

They want to clean up their image by removing anything that might rock the boat. What more is there to understand?


So when is someone going to start a Sex-Positive Blogging Platform? These communities have always been marginalized by generic hosters - why not make one dedicated to the content?

Ohhh, right..... the advertisers.


> So when is someone going to start a Sex-Positive Blogging Platform? These communities have always been marginalized by generic hosters - why not make one dedicated to the content? Ohhh, right..... the advertisers.

It's impossible to do that legally anymore, because these platforms will always be used by people who do sex work (whether or not they are using the platform for sex work).

As of March of this year, the criminal liabilities are so massive that there's no way to operate a sex-positive platform at scale. That's why we're seeing Tumblr and (as of yesterday) Facebook move towards these draconian anti-sex policies.


You know that you can run and host websites from outside of US, right?

> You know that you can run and host websites from outside of US, right?

The liability that FOSTA and SESTA impose is very "contagious" - it applies not just to the people running the website (e.g. Tumblr) but can extend to anyone that does business with them as well, if that business is deemed necessary enough to the core function of the site.

It'd be very difficult to run any sort of sex-positive blogging platform at scale without, at some point, doing business with someone who has enough of a presence in the US to be exposed to liability under FOSTA and SESTA.

Even Cloudflare had to terminate the account used by Switter, a Mastodon instance for sex workers, because of FOSTA.


Fetlife.com

it already exists (plus other features, granted).


It's not a blogging platform, it's a badly implemented Facebook clone. It's also private, making it difficult to collaborate or spread content, and has terrible search functionality. The only thing you can do is look at their global viral content feed and hope something that isn't just bondage or idiotic rants pops up. It also trends strongly towards kink, and white heteronormative sex, which excludes a huge portion of the Tumblr lgbtq+ spectrum.

I apologize in advance for the wall of text but I felt compelled to dispel a serious misunderstandings of the Kink community and by extension Fetlife from your comment here (though I think getting into the idiosyncrasies of the kinky community and lifestyle might be a wee bit too far off the rails/topic for the discussion of tumblr providing a platform for those interested in adult content).

Sure, while Fetlife might not be a "blogging" platform like Tumblr or WordPress is, the functionality of the site as a community shouldn't be dismissed as a viable alternative for tumblr refugees just because it isn't dedicated to periodical columns the way WordPress is even while the platform has a versatile and quite heavily used blogging feature.

It also trends strongly towards kink

Yes. It does. That's the point. They advertise it as such or try to convince you of anything otherwise. . They don't sell you anything else. That's entirely who the community was built for, it's the entire purpose of the site.

The very first thing you see when you go to the website is:

FetLife is the Social Network for the BDSM, Fetish & Kinky Community.

So yes. That's exactly the point of the site. But I also made sure to add, that among other things, the site is a pretty good and welcoming community for artists of many types: painters, drawers, photographers, writers, it can be many things to many people who want to trade in, and interact with 'adult content' despite the headline viewers see before even logging in or creating an account of their own.

But again, as I said in another comment in this subthread: kink != sex and to be earnest in discussing the affair, it's probably helpful to divorce one from the idea that kinky material == sexy material. Some people find pleasure-and it doesn't have to be sexual pleasure, it could entirely be psychosomatic in controlling what another says and does as a dom or domme. Conflating the two only sets back the entire discussion IMO.

Further, this part has me raising an eyebrow and sorry if I've missed your point but:

and white heteronormative sex, which excludes a huge portion of the Tumblr lgbtq+ spectrum.

How?

Not to be a contrarian on the subject, but as a person of color, my own experiences with the site can be surmised the way a lot of people surmise their experiences with many sites like reddit, twitter, et al: pick the communities/subgroups you want to interact with, ignore those you don't.

So how does Fetlife as a platform "trend towards" white heteronormative sex? Just curious because the platform, best I can tell over the last five years as an active member allows the user to choose what groups they involve themselves with, and what people they involve themselves with and which groups they don't. If you're a person of color, looking to interact with polyamorous people who enjoy rope play, there's a good chance a group exists for it, and if not there is nothing stopping you from creating that.

If you're a white person who wants to interact with non-poly people and are looking for just plain-jane sex with other white people, there are groups for that too.

Best I can tell, Fetlife enables you as a user to find and interact with all sorts of individuals who fit your specific theme/motif of "pleasure" however you define it, and places no limitations on those who exist outside of however we decide to define "normative" on a given day.

Is it possible the experience you speak of has less to do with the platform and more the groups you've chosen to subscribe to and the people you've chosen to interact with?


Saying that Fetlife is an adequate safe haven for the Tumblr lgbtq+ diaspora is like saying a punk record store is a safe haven for all the musicians in a city. Sure, technically speaking, the punks may welcome the musicians. But maybe those musicians don't want to sit around with a bunch of crust punks, pretending to like their trite immature lyrics and three-chord symphonies. Maybe they'd like a space built to make them all feel comfortable and independent, and not shoved into somebody else's space.

Kink isn't sex, but guess what there is a lot of on Fetlife? SEX. Look at the trending page. It's all bondage, stupid rants, and sex/nudes. That is literally all that is on the page right now.

It's white and heteronomative because, again, look at the viral feed. It's all white people having straight sex. I know of maybe 3 regular-old gay men on the whole site. The gay leather community, which literally invented BDSM, is bearly represented at all. And if there are pictures of women, or just any woman with an account, they get inundated by men trying to have sex with them.

Back to Tumblr - if I want to find furry-related content on Tumblr, I just search for "furries" and bam - gifs/jpgs, short posts, memes, everything the Tumblr community wants. I can also search Google and plenty of content comes up.

Now, if I want to find furry content on Fetlife, I have to log in, search for "furries", and individually weed through 602 discussion groups, looking at every individual's profiles, because no posts come up on the search page. No posts. No gifs/jpgs. No. Memes. It would take hours to find the same content.

This is not what Tumblr users want. Fetlife will not work for them.


I know of maybe 3 regular-old gay men on the whole site.

"regular-old gay"??? Would you care to articulate what this even means? What is 'regular' gay? Is there a 'regularity' of being gay or are you applying YOUR presumptions of sexual orientation to a group of people you've never met?

I feel like this probably says much more about how you're using the site than you (probably) intend to give off, and further belies what your associations with the LGBT and kink communities are even to begin with describing things so lackadaisically and I'm not sure I'm inclined or convinced by anything you're really countering with as to what the Fetlife community even is.

It seems limited, surface-level, and full of projections that reduce a spectrum of experiences, desires and wishes for the site down to some personal hangups that really aren't worth discussing here.

And if this comment seems inflammatory to you, then I'll point back to the very beginning of my apoplectic response to your "regular-old gay" comment as an example of exactly how it feels.

---

Anyhow, that aside I'm leaving the discussion to rest with this: Fetlife isn't a 1:1 replacement for EVERY disaffected Tumblr user out there, but it is a good alternative for some, has good features for some, and can be a good and enjoyable community for others.

The gay leather community, which literally invented BDSM, is bearly represented at all.

This is patently false to the point of almost being humorous, but also and even so, the Kink world is several times larger than the "gay leather community". It's mdae up of more people with more varied interests than whatever outmoded idea of Kink you have from the 80's.

I probably did a poor job phrasing that from the start, here-admittedly, or getting the point across that it has features some may find attractive to use for the type of content they want to publish, but to be honest I find your particular characterization in response as a counterpoint to be missing a lot of nuance of the platform, and one that dismisses and completely erases entire social-groups who use the site successfully to create their own local communities, groups and networks based on a few cherrypicked features.

*

If you'd like, I would be MORE than willing to share with you some of the groups and events on the site that (1) aren't about "white heteronormative sex" or (2) full of stupid rants, because contrary to what you're putting out here: they are NOT that hard to find, they are NOT that hard to join, and they are ABSOLUTELY welcoming to all sorts of flavors, identities and orientations. I really suggest you take a much closer look at the site than someone who made an account ten minutes ago and decided their mind is made up


The difference is FetLife is 90%+ sex.

Tumblr has sex, memes, libraries posting cute pictures from old books, cat gifs and everything else.


The difference is FetLife is 90%+ sex.

I think you'd be surprised at the amount of people who are on Fetlife and aren't looking for sex but rather enjoy the kink community, are photographers, or content creators of other types (the blogging feature for example gives you the option of treating/tagging posts as blogs or as "erotic fiction", catering towards that particular wing of the sexually creative types).

Hence my statement of (plus other features, granted) in the original comment.

Sure, it's oriented towards the Kink crowd but Kink != explicit sex.


I understand why Verizon doesn't want to be in the porn business, but shouldn't this have come up during due diligence? Hasn't tumblr been porn-riddled since its inception?

There is nothing wrong with sex. There is nothing wrong with nudity.

Tumblr didn’t say there’s something wrong with sex and nudity. They only said there’s now something wrong with posting pictures of sex & nudity on Tumblr, like most of the millions of other forums online that aren’t focused primarily on porn.

Pornography has been a significant part of tumblr for a long time, and the community that has evolved around it is protesting being removed from their platform of choice. The fact that there are millions of other forums where this isn't a significant component is an argument TO allow pornography, not to remove it.

And there's nothing wrong with a company pruning content it doesnt want to host or be associated with. Tumblr is ambiguously painted as a porn site by many internet communities because of how much crap is on there. Yet this decision has been met with moral outrage as if tumblr is doing something "evil".

It's a symptom of the the pathologies brought on by the current centralised state of web 2.0. Something like this couldn't happen so easily with a more decentralised tumblr-like system.

Of course, decentralised systems like that have their own problems, and there are reasons they're not very widely used. But in principle, a technological solution (make it easier to use/run federated, decentralised alternatives) seems preferable to a social or legal one. Assuming it can be done.


There is nothing wrong with a platform disallowing it, and requiring you hosting it elsewhere.

Nobody is saying Verizon isn't allowed to do this. The entire argument is that Verizon _shouldn't_ do this.

Yeah, I said the same thing when Cloudflare was deplatforming white supremacists [1]. That's the thing about free speech: you have to defend it when you don't agree with the content, not only when it's speech you agree with.

I have since changed my stance after that event: platforms should deplatform everything they don't like. It's the only way people will advocate for solutions that support free speech in all its forms.

EDIT: Everyone running their own phpBB instance is looking pretty smart right now. To own your content/speech/destiny, you have to own your platform.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15031922


I support free speech but I also don't want flat-earther or nazi-supporting opinion columns in my newspapers/websites. Or at least not more than one a week or so. I don't want to spend my time consuming rubbish, or having a lot of conversations why those columns are rubbish.

The columns can be published sure, but in some fringe publications that I don't have to know about.

I also don't like the idea that all people with rubbish ideas should be able to demand distribution via any popular network/publication/institution. However when someone with rubbish ideas is already known, refusing debates or stuff like that is just silly.

Also it's good to remember that free speech means you shouldn't be persecuted for your words. Not that you can't be disliked or made fun of.


> I support free speech but I also don't want flat-earther or nazi-supporting opinion columns in my newspapers/websites.

Some people don't want nudity in their platforms as well, so be prepared for those sites to deplatform with extreme prejudice.

Tumblr users publishing the sexual and nude content that they do makes them what the general public would consider a fringe publication. It should be unsurprising that Verizon/Oath intend to nuke all of it.


Arguably, though perhaps I am unwise to post this here (if so, it is a sorry state of affairs..), the idea that there is "nothing wrong with nudity" is less controversial (more true, even!) than the idea that there is "nothing wrong" with white supremacy.

Morality is subjective, which is why the freedom of speech is (almost entirely) absolute (except in cases of causing immediate harm, such as yelling fire in a crowded theater when fire doesn't exist).

I have a hard time equating Tumblr with CloudFlare. The latter is purely a utility, like a phone company, while the former is a website. While I understand that websites are also considered utilities by some (and the irony that Tumblr is now owned by a phone company is not lost on me), it seems like a blurrier line than for CloudFlare.

There are about a dozens directions they could want to take Tumblr in to grow it that all require it being porn free.

...and there are dozens more that don't. Look at Reddit.

<removed because I don't think it contributed to discussion but couldn't delete>

I disagree. There is absolutely nothing wrong with users saying:

"I have enjoyed this use case that is currently allowed. I dislike the fact that this use case will be going away. If it does happen, I am much less likely to use the site. I think you should reconsider your decision."

Tumblr, of course, is free to disregard this feedback, but I cannot see how there is anything even slightly wrong with concerned users providing it.


They know. This is a move to extract value from a problematic platform. It was never about the users except as a growth metric to valuate, and sell, which they did. The life cycle is complete, and the remains are being butchered for sale. As much as I love liberal boobies, its still a walled garden you chose to play in.

Seems like they've tried to roll their own machine learning classifier as well because I've seen some comically bad screenshots of banned content. For example, a picture of someone's finger got banned as sexually explicit.

Should have just used AWS or Google Cloud AI APIs


Yeah its really bad. I reviewed my (exclusively adult) tumblr when they started hiding things and it was comical what did and didn't get banned.

Shirtless guy on the beach? Banned!

Completely naked person with genitals in full view, posed to arouse prurient interests? Totally fine, apparently.

Totally agree that they should have used existing tools. As for the CP issue, they absolutely should be using the tools published by Microsoft, the FBI, etc. - it is totally shameful if they weren't already doing that.


Or Not Hotdog

Those never have false positives?

Not as bad as I've seen from Tumblr. It's moving towards meme territory with how bad some of the bans are

Update It has in fact become a meme, example

https://knowyourmeme.com/photos/1437369-tumblr#comments


Translation for non-millenials: It’s become a joke.

A meme is basically a joke template that becomes popular. Then they get remixed, and the remix gets popular. Before you know it someone's asking "where did that cosmic brain meme image come from?" and you find out it's from a stock video.

First I'm told that YouTube won't pay me for my 400 videos because my subscriber count is too low.

Now I'm told my porn Tumblr with 5,000 posts and 45,000 subscribers will be made private (i.e. deactivated).

The internet is dying, man.

Sad.


A suggestion:

- Verizon/Oath could make a reasonable exit and get some of their investment back

- Users could continue using Tumblr

- Tumblr could continue to exist

if Verizon/Oath sold it to Mindgeek or a similar adult focused company.


Who's going to sign off on a "reasonable exit" that realizes millions of dollars in losses? Better to drive the value all the way to zero while looking like you're trying.

There's a much simpler explanation: after regular movies porn costs boatload of money to distribute for free. Tumblr like consumers of porn refuse to pull out their credit card to pay for it, Tumblr producers of porn refuse to pull out their credit card to pay for delivery and advertisers are having a hard time justifying advertising on porn sites.

Kill the porn => make tumblr cheap to run => make money off the ads => profit


I swear I'm not trying to be a sassy arse about this, but when people talk about the "porn" on tumblr, I seriously thought this was about a crackdown of pictures and videos stolen from porn studios and reuploaded to tumblr the way people upload popular songs and music videos to YouTube and the subsequent copyright issues that come from that.

So when I saw so many people talking about "I get all my porn" from tumblr, my immediate response is ".....seriously?"


Horny people have no rights. Horny people are NOT protected under the constitution.

>Sex-Positive Communities

TIL


LOL me too

There are a growing number of censorship and free speech issues facing the internet- this is not one of them. This society is heading to the toilet if a mainstream website used by children cannot decide that they don’t want to host porn on their product. Why is this even controversial?

This is an open letter expressing how Tumblr's decision will be harmful to a subset of its users.

As a commenter, there are several "good faith" ways to respond to this:

- I disagree, this is not harmful to these users, because ____

- I agree that this is harmful to these users, but that is outweighed by ____

- I don't know whether or not this is harmful to these users, and I'm looking to learn more about their concerns.

You seem to have taken another route, "I don't understand this concern at all, nor do I intend to educate myself on it, and instead I'm going to rant about how these people are bad for society". This doesn't strike me as productive.

(Also: you're arguing against an imaginary position. Nobody is claiming that Tumblr doesn't have the right to decide what content is allowed on their platform. The argument isn't that tumblr can't do this. This is just shedding a light on the harm this decision will cause)


To be fair, most of the arguments (at least that I've seen, could be non-representative) aren't against big C "Censorship" in the way that this comment implies. It's not an argument as to whether or not Oath/Verizon/Tumblr CAN remove the content and be within their right to do so, it's that it's a poor idea from either a business or a community based point of view (often both). While they are able to manage their community in any way they seem fit, it's that the users of the platform are coming out (and I have absolutely zero data to say whether it's a vast majority or vocal minority) to say that they disagree with the decision that is being made. When phrased in the way that you did, you seem to imply the black-and-white view of "Porn is obviously bad, why shouldn't Tumblr remove it" though ignoring most of the discussion and nuanced views that make a discussion like this worth having.

> you seem to imply the black-and-white view of "Porn is obviously bad, why shouldn't Tumblr remove it" though ignoring most of the discussion and nuanced views that make a discussion like this worth having

You've effectively changed what he said. He said something much simpler: there are children that use Tumblr; because there are children that use Tumblr, removing porn from Tumblr should not be controversial.

A "nuanced" reply would assess the risk of exposing children to the fascinations of various alternative communities that do not dabble in child porn. I don't see "Porn is obviously bad", but I do see exposing children to porn is obviously bad.


It's more than a porn ban, though, it's an "adult content" ban. IMHO because Tumblr chose to make the ban broad instead of focusing on commercial pornography, this made the controversy a lot stronger than it needs to be.

As it stands, Tumblr is not just banning someone's stash of hardcore sex videos. It also is banning, say, a casual vacation photo taken on a beach where topless sunbathing is acceptable (due to the explicit ban on female nipples except for a few narrow contexts). On a more "adult" level, it is also banning stuff in between the two categories, like say boudoir photography (which is usually adult in nature, sometimes erotic / titillating, but is usually not explicitly pornographic.)

Even the "any content that depicts sex acts" seems vague. Would something like, say, Rodin's "The Kiss" -- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Kiss_(Rodin_sculpture) -- be flagged? I don't know, it depends on what the auto-algorithms sees as a "sex act" I guess. Certainly if you were an artist that dabbled in any sort of erotic drawing / painting, the vague definition would probably be a worry IMHO.

(Tumblr is already 13+ already. Commercial crass porn is one thing, but I personally don't think there is any problem showing a 13+ year old this Rodin sculpture or a casual beach shot where topless sunbathing is acceptable.)


It is even simpler, he literally just made a “will somebody please think of the children” argument. Which is so that inane it doesn’t even need a serious reply.

Do you have kids?

As a parent, the idea of exposing my kids to the internet is frightening. There are so many paths by which they can get exposed to stuff they shouldn't be exposed to. I, personally, think that attempts to make more of the internet child friendly are good. The internet as it exists today is like walking down the Main Street of some town, except that people surprise you by randomly jumping out from behind mailboxes and shrubs and engaging in hardcore sex on the sidewalk. It's insane.


If you’re worried about your kids being exposed to that stuff, set up internet filtering in your home. It’s pretty effective these days, and you’ll actually get way closer to the result you want with that approach than with trying to change the internet.

I understand there are a lot of “nuanced” rationalizations against Tumblr’s decision-and of course it’s great that they’re discussed and cases are made, so that fair minded people rightfully reject them. We live in a free society- Tumblr is not a monopoly- and now a competitor can freely scoop up the obvious niche community that Tumblr is choosing not to support anymore.

Because there’s already plenty of places on the internet to host a censored photo blog for free. And because some people (myself included) resent the implication that watching porn is deviant behavior. And because there’s actually no conclusive evidence that’s it’s harmful to children.

Are you aware that in this case the actual issue was child pornography?

That's obviously not the case, otherwise they'd have banned only that.

When do you think child pornography was not banned?

It's widely believed to be an issue of effective enforcement, and they explicitly call out the connection in their own announcement.


Regardless of how one feels about the policy itself (for the record, I do side with you for the most part), the way they are implementing it leaves much to be desired:

First, they're deploying a machine-learning algorithm that simply does. not. work. It's flagging SFW content and ignoring NSFW content. I've been collecting a sample of erroneously-tagged posts here: https://paperairplanemob.tumblr.com/tagged/GREAT-WORK-VERIZO...

Second, it is a marked change from an earlier effort to make a "Safe Mode" for minors that filters out illicit content for those that don't want to (or shouldn't) view it. This is taking it a step farther, leaving those that have previously used Tumblr for such content scrambling to find a new platform.

Third, the announcement was incredibly disrespectful to the existing community on Tumblr. Everything from the post's title to the language used ("female-presenting nipples") was laced with corporate double-speak that would barely have flown on a normal social network. On Tumblr? Yeah, no.

Finally, because this is a change from earlier behavior on Tumblr, it's going to change the social makeup of the network. I don't go to Tumblr for illicit material; that's not why I'm there. I'm there to see and read some good fandom material, read webcomics, and have a good time. The previously lax content policy meant that the people I follow were free to experiment and be creative without worrying about having a post taken down for violating some vaguely defined "no porn" rule. Now, even if someone isn't posting illicit material, they still have an algorithm to content with. If they make it through the algorithm, they still have to worry about someone with an axe to grind reporting their content anyway. Eventually, people will stop posting rather than deal with the new changes. And that's going to change the community on Tumblr.

So no, in the broad scheme of things, there are plenty of other things we should be worried about. But something we love is being taken away from us, and we're going through the stages of grief as a result.


Because platforms.

Web 2.0 spent the last 15 years taking over the internet. They made publishing easy enough for your mom. The web evolved from a niche many-to-many medium into a really global, many-to-many medium.

But... In exchange for these great, free publishing tools... most online content got concentrated and funnelled through a handful of companies. Being startups, they had reasonably diverse personas. Family friendly Facebook, anarcho-lunatic Reddit, neckbeard news.yc and pansexual tumblr...

As valuations grew, online advertising exploded and startups aged... they all end up with the same corporate persona.

I care about freedom too. But, I think a lot of liberals/libertarians (like me, this isn't shade) get too caught up in philosopmhical "blackboard freedom" and don't look at actual freedom.

An web where most content is reviewed by a taboo filter (this is what nsfw means, taboo) is not as free as one that isn't.

I'll throw out a reminder that many of the web's first communities existed to discuss taboo topics: drugs, sex, etc.

These were, for example, in my opinion, responsible for the cultural liberalisation that enabled "the great coming out" of gay and other marginalized culture.


I had a similar thought after discussing this exact topic with a friend last night over beers:

Used to be if you wanted a presence on the web, you did it yourself. You got hosting, you learned what you needed to learn if there was something unfamiliar to you, some trial and error later, a website. You dot com.

The platforms came and soon it became you dot theirplatform dot com. Because they made it easier, faster and cheaper to get your stuff out there and get it seen by many people also posting on 'the platform'...the great tragedy is that it also made it easy for 'the platform' to get rid of 'your' stuff (read: stuff you leased to the platform) if at any point they decide, for whatever reason, they don't want it there.

I remember that being much harder to do that when it was you dot com. We were happy to do the work of putting up a you dot com. Some of us still are, because it's what we came up with, what we cut our teeth on so to speak.

Not sure if I'm really going anywhere with this...just sort of thinking idly at a bygone era I guess.


I feel the same way. The more popular the internet becomes, the smaller it feels. I'm sure stats on the numbers of websites would prove me wrong, but it's not my experience in day-to-day usage.

In the past, I would visit dozens of different websites in a day, each catering to their own little niche. Now, it's all moderated-subreddits which have to ultimately bow to the rules of the reddit admins.

It's impossible to have a decent conversation online now. Before, when everything was forums, the conversation in a thread was a single thing. People posting one after the other. Now, it's threaded comment chains where you get so many little conversations going on that it's garbage.

How many forum threads have you subscribed to and been eager to read the new replies the next time you visit? How many reddit posts have you ever returned to after the first visit, assuming you read the comments at all?

I hate the current-day internet. HN, SA and XDA excluded.


> It's impossible to have a decent conversation online now. Before, when everything was forums, the conversation in a thread was a single thing. People posting one after the other. Now, it's threaded comment chains where you get so many little conversations going on that it's garbage.

You forgot the gamification of it all with weighted popularity ranking. There's little point in contributing to any conversation unless it aligns with the existing accepted beliefs of the community.

And since have to maintain a minimum social credit/karma/gold/whatever score to function on many sites, why jeopardize it? Best to avoid controversial topics and opinions.


I think besides platforms, a lot of ways the conversations online have changed is down to the number of people now online.

The web was very big, very early in absolute terms, but pretty small in the "number of people from your town" sense.


How many forum threads have you subscribed to and been eager to read the new replies the next time you visit?

If this is your way of asking if people still visit Fark, the answer is "yes" :P


Is Tumblr a product aimed towards children?

It explicitly states that it is not for those under 13. It has never presented itself as being family-friendly in the past.

Even if you remove all of the porn from Tumblr, it still isn't a good platform for children and children still shouldn't use it.

Social data and data sharing really needs to be standardized around common protocols. I could see a better future wherein:

1. There's a core layer made up of an immutable ledger of encrypted social data (content users publish and relationships between users) and a series of protocols to use and manipulate that data. This layer is non-discriminatory and anything can be published.

2. The future "Facebook"s, "Tumblr"s create frontends that use (1)s data in interesting ways by consent of the user. These frontends can blacklist certain content depending on what their goals are. Depending on country of operation, these classes of services additionally act as legal gatekeepers for what is legal or non-legal content.


why would you want an immutable ledger? Just make it peer-to-peer and encrypted. The whole world doesn't need to store a copy of someone's PMs or even their public posts.

Some people just really like applying blockchains to problems that blockchains have no business "solving".

Glad I cancelled subscription and donations to eff. This blind devotion to 'free speech' is what led the tech industry to empower InfoWars and their ilk. The world is complex.

infowars came from radio not the internet,it still has a substantial following there

When did the EFF turn into a porn advocacy group? Doesn't seem to really fit with what their core mission is supposed to be. And we should remember that what likely led to this was that there was a large amount of child porn being posted to the website. Advertisers probably didn't like that very much, and I imagine Verizon isn't interested in running a porn site anyways.

Then they shouldn't have bought a porn site.

They bought Yahoo. Tumblr came with it.



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