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Tumblr After Porn: Will the Social Network Survive?

How is Tumblr coping since its decision to ban porn in December 2018?

With a drop in viewing figures of around 30%, the decision by the social media platform and microblogging site, Tumblr, to ban ‘adult content’ has been seen by many as a huge failure. Though the intentions of the company were honorable (the move was made in a bid to combat child pornography), the blanket approach to banning all content that might be adult in nature has been widely criticised.

In this feature, we take a look at exactly why Tumblr has banned porn on its platform, how this is working and what the impact has been so far. We also take a look at the future of personal porn content curation with the emergence of alternatives to Tumblr.

Porn on Tumblr

For those of you don’t know much about Tumblr and the role it played in the adult content industry, we’ll give you a quick summary.

A microblogging and social networking site Tumblr is often referred to as an online scrapbook that allows users to curate content such as videos, GIFs, text and photos much in the same way as Pinterest but with the functionality of Twitter. The difference between Tumblr and other platforms is that it also serves as a kind of blog site. Unlike Facebook, users on the site are often anonymous but just like Twitter, you can follow accounts and re-post/share content on your own micro-blog.

what is tumblr

Tumblr hosts over 459 million blogs (March 2019). Image via Wikimedia.

The appeal for fans of adult content is obvious and people flocked to Tumblr for plenty of diversity in their NSFW content. From weird kinks and strange fetishes to regular vanilla porn, there was a Tumblr tag to cover it all and you could find plenty of devotees updating their blogs, cleverly and conveniently curating the best content.

The site found itself so popular in this niche that reports in 2013 by Tech Crunch revealed that 22% of traffic to the site was porn-related and more than 16% of blogs on the site were exclusively adult in nature.

Why the Porn Ban on Tumblr?

The decision made by Tumblr to ban pornography on its platform was a result of allegations that the site was being used to distribute child pornography. On 16th November 2018, the Tumblr app was removed from the iOS App Store following reports of an image that had made it through the site’s filtering systems.

A very serious complaint, the company responded by introducing a total ban on adult content, adjusting its community guidelines and employing far more robust automatic filters to block any such content being shared on its site.

To confirm, Tumblr now defines adult content as:

“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.”

The decision followed similar moves by internet giants Facebook, Instagram and YouTube who have all made inroads into eradicating adult content across their respective platforms.

Impact of the Porn Ban on Tumblr

Of course, whilst no-one would criticize the reasons behind wanting to eradicate the kind of content that sparked this ban, there has been much criticism over the decision to drive adult content off the platform and the results, so far have been devasting for the site’s popularity. Before the porn ban, Tumblr was ranked 55th most visited site worldwide but has now dropped 21 places to 76th…..still a big player as a social network but facing some large losses in its user base.

Since the site announced it’s ban on porn on 17th December 2018, Tumblr has experienced a 30% drop in traffic. So, according to the internet traffic monitoring site, SimilarWeb, audiences for the site have fallen from 558 million hits in October 2018 to 394.5 million in March 2019.

Tumblr porn ban site viewing stats

More than a fifth of the site’s user base has deserted the site since the ban. Image via SimilarWeb.

There are several reasons why the site has experienced a huge drop in traffic with the primary one being the blackout on the 16% of those accounts who solely used the platform for distributing porn.

There has also been outrage by some over the issue of censorship being imposed on their accounts and, whilst they may not yet be affected, they are turning  their backs on Tumblr over the principle of ‘Big Brother’.

Whilst you’d think this would be simply those people who used Tumblr as a handy place to curate their porn, the ban has also affected plenty of other people too including artists, designers and other folk too. It seems the site’s filters cannot distinguish between graphic images of genitalia and everyday objects shot in poor light.

tumblr after porn censorship

It’s not just adult content being censored on Tumblr. Image via Wikimedia.

In addition, there are plenty of users who are abandoning Tumblr in a bid to make their voices heard over the long-standing issues of freedom of speech. Whilst protecting this fundamental right often comes into conflict when it comes to adult content, proponents of porn can usually count on the backing of First Amendment lobbyists.

Other groups who are turning their back on Tumblr include minority groups such as the LGBTQ community; specifically, the trans community who have traditionally used the site to share information and resources on surgery. By the new definitions of Tumblr’s community guidelines and the use of automated filter systems, images of body transformations of this nature are no longer able to be shared.

Whilst there is an obvious need for robust mechanisms to be put in place to regulate content to ensure the protection of vulnerable groups including minors, trafficked individuals and people at risk of abuse, there is a clear counter-need for consensual adult content (whatever your legal kink) to be accessible by those who are of legal age to view it. By introducing such sweeping prohibitions across its network, legal porn is effectively being judged in the same dark shades as the content that led to  this ban.

Best Alternatives to Tumblr for Porn

Although Tumblr still allows written erotica and some ‘censored’ images on its site, disgruntled bloggers have been looking for an alternative to the platform and it is no surprise that Reddit is forefront among many users seeking a similar experience.

Whatever kind of porn you are looking for whether it’s a particular fetish like smoking, larger ladies or adult breastfeeding, there is a subreddit that caters for your niche.

A social media aggregation site, Reddits community groups each have their own guidelines for content but the NSFW Reddit offers users a great alternative to Tumblr for sharing and accessing porn.

You can find a feature on the best adult/NSFW subreddits in our latest blog post.

best alternatives to tumblr porn ban

Reddit is experiencing a huge influx of new users since Tumblr’s ban. Image via Flickr.

Other platforms offering viable NSFW alternatives to Tumblr include:

  • Pillowfort – a small blogging site that is similar in style to Tumblr. However, the site is only in the Beta stage of development so has been limiting its user-base to try and keep up with the number of Tumblr ‘refugees’. One to watch for the future as it develops but certainly capable or providing a great alternative to Tumblr.
  • Twitter – one of the original social networking and news sharing services, Twitter has long had an affinity with the adult industry . It hosts accounts for plenty of mainstream porn stars, escorts and cam girls who all post regular porn content.
  • Mastodon – just Pillowfort is a new alternative to Tumblr, Mastodon is an up and coming alternative to Twitter. There are plenty of similarities that make it easy to use but Mastodon offers even greater privacy protection using a network of decentralized servers and is open-source which should mean that, in time, the platform will be transformed by the people who use it. There lots of NSFW content already and the flexibility and security should make a great alternative to Tumblr for adult content.
  • Snapchat – just like Twitter, Snapchat is used by plenty of adult performers and the App is no longer just considered a simple way of communicating with friends or flirting with hook-ups. Snapchat has changed massively since it was first launched and is now a behemoth of a network which allows adult bloggers to communicate directly with their audiences. Sure, some of these accounts are premium meaning you have to pay to follow them but the content you get access to is exclusive and instant and, though not quite the same as Tumblr, is proving popular as an alternative to Tumblr.

Will Tumblr Survive?

It’s still early days in the aftermath of the adult content ban on Tumblr and although over a fifth of users has abandoned the site, there is no taking away from the fact that the site still has almost 400 million users. The fact that these people are still using the platform months after adult content has been banned does mean that there is a solid base on which Tumblr can move forward with its status as a porn-free service.

It has to be remembered that other many other mainstream platforms and social networking sites have all made moves to ‘clean’ up their services and have not fallen by the wayside so Tumblr too can weather this storm. Certainly for many people, Tumblr may now be a more attractive space to represent a more family-friendly environment.

The fact that Tumblr’s doors are now closed to adult content is a dark cloud but not one that isn’t without a silver lining. With the likes of Reddit, Pillowfort and Twitter all likely to benefit from Tumblr’s ban on porn, this exodus may still lead us to the promised land? Whilst the adult community may not be looking for the land of Canaan, surely the time is ripe for a dedicated NSFW platform.

Featured image via pxhere.

Staff Writer

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