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Why People are Really Angry About Tumblr’s SFW Change

Tumblr users may be used to ignoring the little blue banner that calls attention to an announcement made by the Tumblr staff account, but this most recent update is one that users of the site can’t and aren’t going to ignore.

According to the Daily Dot, this whole fiasco started when twitter was used to call out a Tumblr blog that was using the site to host child pornography. The blog was since deleted by the site, but the app remained off of the Apple app store following this event. This is what seems to have spurred the announcement about Tumblr’s change in guidelines

Tumblr CEO Jeff D’Onofrio announced, via the staff account, that the changing guidelines would include banning all adult content from Tumblr. This 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.”

Image via Instagram

The phrasing used by D’Onofrio has definitely got quite a few people up in arms. For a platform that has been known for its LGBT inclusivity, the definition of “female-presenting nipples” has struck a few chords.

In addition, some users are mainly angry because they ran adult themed blogs with clear warnings meant to keep children away from the content. In this way, the blogs were created by adults and for adults. This banishment, they feel, is an aggression against their ability to create content for the audiences who are able to consent to see it. You can read more about the impacts towards these adult blogs here.

This is not, however, the only impact this change will have to the site. And, arguably, it’s not even the impact that is getting people the angriest. Prior to this announcement, there were quite a few blogs that were just deleted by the site, whether they had any connection to the child pornography or not. And, since then, many posts have been flagged as having inappropriate or “sensitive” material when they don’t. D’Onofrio admitted that this is a large undertaking that will require quite a few resources and automated tools. But, automated tools are not perfect.

Image via Tumblr

What else are users supposed to be, though, when their perfectly innocent posts get flagged and taken down? Such posts include pictures of cats, cookies, fossils, drawings of dinosaurs, artwork with clothed models, and, in a truly ironic fashion, the announcement post itself. These posts can in no way shape or form be connected to the NSFW content outlined in the announcement. While the announcement did claim that creators would be able to appeal these decisions, some creators are unable. Creator of the Steven Universe AU comic Ask White Pearl and Steven explained that a review of the flagged content was unable to be requested because the feature is only available on the next update of Tumblr, which has not been made available on the GooglePlay store yet, and the link for the desktop version only lead to a question mark. The creator describes this situation as “a problem to which [the staff] provided no palpable solution.”

Image via The Verge

D’Onofrio describes Tumblr as “a place for wide open, creative self-expression at the heart of community and culture… [That’s] proud to have inspired a generation of artists, writers, creators, curators, and crusaders to redefine our culture and to help empower individuality.” But, how can he claim pride to such creators and self-expression when this new update won’t let people create or express themselves?

Zoe Philippou

Gettysburg '20

(she/her) From Arizona, Zoe is officially a Psychology and Anthropology double major, a German minor, and an unofficial a Theater inhabitor. She loves all thing having to do with culture or really just people in general. She's also a huge nerd who loves crafts.