Tumblr Announces New Porn Policy & Speculative Design Solutions For Adult Content On SFW-geared Social Media

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Tumblr announced a new policy which will take effect December 17 which bans all “adult content” (content depicting sex acts) whether it is posted in the form of a photograph, video or GIF. The company stated that  Any blog which continues to post adult content after the policy is put in place will be flagged and placed into a private state, effectively shadowbanning the site-owner.

Jeff D’Onofrio, the CEO of Tumblr, in a blog post entitled ‘A Better More Positive Tumblr’ explained the impetus for the policy change, writing:

“It is our continued, humble aspiration that Tumblr be a safe place for creative expression, self-discovery, and a deep sense of community. As Tumblr continues to grow and evolve, and our understanding of our impact on our world becomes clearer, we have a responsibility to consider that impact across different age groups, demographics, cultures, and mindsets. We spent considerable time weighing the pros and cons of expression in the community that includes adult content. In doing so, it became clear that without this content we have the opportunity to create a place where more people feel comfortable expressing themselves.

Bottom line: 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.”

The move caused a considerable public outcry as the site is popular amongst sex workers and erotic artists who utilize the social aspects and long-standing community to market and network. That being said, the website will still allow erotic content if it is text-only and nudity, provided it pertains to anatomically accurate works of art, breast-feeding or other health-related content. Rival platform, Mastodon, has seized upon this opportunity and urged affected Tumblr users to switch to their site, a tactic Gab deployed during Twitter’s February purge of predominately “right-wing” users.

The issue is interesting, less due to the nature of the content and more given the complex design problem it presents. A initial solution could be the adoption of a procedure similar to Mastodon’s adult-content policy, which leaves all adult content on-site but covered via a screen which can be easily and selectively remove post-by-post, or which can be turned off for all content in user settings, thus, circumventing the need to decide whether or not to censor legal adult content of any kind on the site.

Another possible solution outside of a outright ban could be a designated area or designated blog-type, perhaps with a special tag, emblem, color, or some combination thereof which could be toggled for visibility in user settings, after the establishment of which, all non-tagged blogs could be censored as per the new policy. Both policies would increase user control-over-content and increase the likelihood of user participation and loyalty, which, in terms of ability to control-for-content would functionally be a win-win situation at best, or, a win-mitigated-loss situation at worst.

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