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Tumblr will ban all adult content on December 17th

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Existing posts containing porn will be switched to private mode

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Tumblr will permanently ban adult content from its platform on December 17th in a move that will eradicate porn-related communities on the platform and fundamentally alter how the service is used. The ban includes explicit sexual content and nudity with a few exceptions, the company tells The Verge. The new policy’s announcement comes just days after Tumblr was removed from Apple’s iOS App Store over a child pornography incident, but it extends far beyond that matter alone. “Adult content will no longer be allowed here,” the company flatly stated in a blog post published on Monday.

Banned content includes photos, videos, and GIFs of human genitalia, female-presenting nipples, and any media involving sex acts, including illustrations. The exceptions include nude classical statues and political protests that feature nudity. The new guidelines exclude text, so erotica remains permitted. Illustrations and art that feature nudity are still okay — so long as sex acts aren’t depicted — and so are breastfeeding and after-birth photos.

After December 17th, any explicit posts will be flagged and deleted by algorithms. For now, Tumblr is emailing users who have posted adult content flagged by algorithms and notifying them that their content will soon be hidden from view. Posts with porn content will be set to private, which will prevent them from being reblogged or shared elsewhere in the Tumblr community.

Users have a chance to appeal Tumblr’s decision in situations where they think there’s been a mistake, and the platform admits there’s a chance that the automated tools it’s using could make errors. It’s a process that could take a while, as a bulk of Tumblr posts feature explicit content. Users who run adult blogs can also export their content before the change takes place in order to save what they have.

Explicit blogs will be allowed to remain on the service, but they’ll be heavily censored for all visitors. Here’s Tumblr’s FAQ:

What if my blog (not to be confused with posts) was marked as “explicit” before December 17, 2018?

Blogs that have been either self-flagged or flagged by us as “explicit” per our old policy and before December 17, 2018 will still be overlaid with a content filter when viewing these blogs directly. While some of the content on these blogs may now be in violation of our policies and will be actioned accordingly, the blog owners may choose to post content that is within our policies in the future, so we’d like to provide that option. Users under 18 will still not be allowed to click through to see the content of these blogs. The avatars and headers for these blogs will also be reverted to the default settings. Additionally, posts from these blogs are kept out of search results.

Since Tumblr was founded in 2007, it has largely turned a blind eye to adult content. The company has tried to shield it from public view through Safe Mode and more stringent search filters. But in recent months — and under the ownership of Verizon’s Oath unit — it began to consider removing content more aggressively. “We’ve given serious thought to who we want to be to our community moving forward,” CEO Jeff D’Onofrio says in a blog post. “We’ve realized that in order to continue to fulfill our promise and place in culture, especially as it evolves, we must change.” D’Onofrio says Tumblr weighed the pros and cons thoroughly before making its decision. It also decided not to remove explicit accounts because it wanted to give these accounts a chance to post appropriate content instead.

Under Oath, Tumblr has been cleaning up its platform more rapidly than it had done in previous years. In August, Tumblr announced new community guidelines that banned revenge porn, hate speech, and posts that glorified school shootings.

If users mourn the loss of adult content on Tumblr, D’Onofrio claims they have many other solutions. “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,” he said. That argument will do little to curtail anger over this decision from people who have used Tumblr as a safe place to enjoy, share, and discuss their preferred flavor of porn and adult content.