Imagine being a sex worker or adult content creator. You wake up one morning to check your social media pages and all of your content, your livelihood, is removed from the social media sites you use. Your income is now directly affected by the choices of web developers who allowed you to host your content just the day before. This is a devastating loss to not only your income, but your right to creative liberty and freedom of speech. And it is a reality that has come true for thousands of sex workers all over the world.
Tumblr, the massive microblogging and social media website, has long been an advocate for free speech and creative freedom since it was established in 2007. In 2013, the company was sold to Yahoo! for $1.1 Billion USD which, at the time, was the largest acquisition for a social media company, surpassing Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram for $1 Billion USD the year prior. And in 2017, Yahoo! and all of it’s subsidiary companies, including Tumblr, were purchased by Verizon Communications for $4.48 Billion USD and merged into a new company named Oath.
For the last 11 years, Tumblr has been one of many websites that has stood with many other sites in the social media world in the fight for Net Neutrality and freedom from Corporate Censorship. However, in recent years, users have become skeptical of the management and administration of the social media site. Since it’s buyout from Yahoo! in 2013, users have criticized it’s relaxed stance on managing exactly what content it allows, especially in the way of content that is inappropriate, sometimes even downright illegal. All of this prompted Apple to remove the social media site’s mobile app from its App Store in late November of 2018.
Amidst growing fears of what might happen under new ownership of Verizon, on December 17th, 2018, Tumblr finally did something about it’s App Store black mark and banned all pornographic material hosted on the site. This came with a massive backlash by many users and even major news outlets, calling the act, “Lazy,” as described by BBC News. The intentions were first announced in a public blog post by the company CEO, Jeff D’Onofrio, on December 3rd, 2018, stating that the change will create, “A better, more positive Tumblr.” D’Onofrio was also quick to make a stance on other sites.
“There are no shortage of sites on the internet that feature adult content. We will leave it to them and focus our efforts on creating the most welcoming environment possible for our community.” – Jeff D’Onofrio, Tumblr CEO
This stance on the the matter does nothing but shows a narrow minded and ignorant attempt to discredit adult content creators and the people who view their content, especially for those who actually make money from it. These people are literally having their customer base ripped away from them with no warning. One thing that has set Tumblr apart for so long has been the open forum layout and it’s relaxed stance on adult oriented content. And with this, it destroys one of the last few public domains that actually openly allows users to post adult content outside of porn sites. This all comes as a lazy attempt to please a corporate dom so Verizon can sell you ads. And the message is nothing but a corporate bandage on the wounds of a failing social media site.
In an attempt to ‘right it’s wrongs,’ Tumblr has enlisted the help of bot programs designed to spot adult content and hide it from other users, making the idea of even posting this content not worth the effort. Tumblr has stated that excluded content includes the following:
Exposed female-presenting nipples in connection with breastfeeding, birth or after-birth moments, and health-related situations, such as post-mastectomy or gender confirmation surgery. Written content such as erotica, nudity related to political or newsworthy speech, and nudity found in art, such as sculptures and illustrations. -Tumblr Help Center
However, they are even failing in this area because the bot is still banning content within those exceptions and even content that is not even associated with the policy change. This flags the blogs of users affected as adult content and hides them from public view as a result. While Tumblr has stated they will appeal these situations, all of this shouldn’t even be happening in the first place. The policy change is not fixing any issues, but making them worse instead.
This has created nothing but a fury of anger among the loyal community members and has turned it’s users against the website. Tumblr is essentially turning a blind eye on the many users who post their content in a legal and professional manner. And on top of that, it only covers a small portion of the real issues driving it’s users away. The issues affecting the site, such as the increased volume of child pornography and Anti Semitic messages, among other things, are the real issues Tumblr needs to fix. And I don’t even wish to offer a solution at this point. The, “Better, more positive tumblr,” message is quickly turning into, “We only care about money and don’t actually care about you or your interests in our website.” And that is what makes all of this even more downright ridiculous.
And there is a very real fear this is not the last we are going to see of similar situations, with FOSTA/SESTA rules being put into effect in the near future. All of this may be the signals of the end of Net Neutrality altogether and the rise of an age of corporate censorship. And make no mistake, these telecommunications companies don’t want you to have a say. As of 2017, “Comcast, AT&T, Verizon and the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) have spent $572 million on attempts to influence the FCC and other government agencies since 2008,” according to MapLight. All of these companies have a say in what you see, hear, read, and watch every day and corporate censorship is a very real thing. And the example that Tumblr has set shows how the internet will become the sub bitch to corporate doms. But all of this is just opinion, right?
Sources: https://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/20/technology/yahoo-to-buy-tumblr-for-1-1-billion.html … https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-switch/wp/2017/06/13/its-official-verizon-finally-buys-yahoo/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.d416498ba599 … https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-46597403 … https://staff.tumblr.com/post/180758987165/a-better-more-positive-tumblr … https://tumblr.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/articles/231885248-Adult-content … https://bgr.com/2017/07/12/net-neutrality-explained-internet-day-of-action-july-12/ … https://maplight.org/story/for-every-1-net-neutrality-comment-internet-cable-providers-spent-100-on-lobbying-over-decade/ …
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