Tumblr, Porn Armageddon has begun, starting with #gay…

The Armageddon has begun: Yahoo is starting to ban pornographic hashtags from Tumblr!

Yahoo’s recent purchase of Tumblr for $1.1 billion made headlines this Spring, and also raised a lot of questions about what Yahoo will do with Tumblr’s content.  What is all too obvious to users is that a HUGE portion of Tumblr is porn- according to an analysis of Tumblr’s 200,000 most-visited domains, 22,775 are NSFW content, or about 11.4%, and 16.6% overall. On top of that, Adult Content websites category is the largest referral source for Tumblr visitors.  Basically, porn content is a major pillar to Tumblr’s traffic.

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But here is the strange part: the hashtag search results that they are slashing are “#Gay,” “#Lesbian” and “#Bisexual”- not exactly the obvious choices.  I mean, even the most prudish can think of something a little more obviously NSFW to censor.  According to the ,

A new search policy went into effect Thursday that excludes all adult blogs from Google, Bing, Yahoo and other search engines by disabling indexing of anything it tags as “adult.” The new rules also keep adult-rated blogs and posts from showing up in tags, the way blogs are searched and found on Tumblr’s internal search. …

The new Yahoo policy went into effect the same day that an update to Tumblr’s iOS app removed search results for #gay, #lesbian and #bisexual content. The change was supposedly made to remain consistent with Apple’s anti-porn policy, but it also seems to put up a wall that makes it harder for people in the LGBT community to use Tumblr.

So yeah- Tumblr is not only eliminating one of their largest categories of content, but also alienating LGBT users.  Way to expand your user base!  Does #Gay equal porn? Should they then eliminate #Straight?  If you have gay wedding pictures on your feed, Yahoo thinks it’s porn and is now unsearchable if you tagged it as “#gay”.  In reality, many other seemingly harmless terms bring up far more porn than- just try to google “asian” without your safety filter on.

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It seems like the low-hanging fruit would be censoring something like #gayporn or #lesbianp*ssylicking, as opposed to pejoratively labeling the entire LGBT community as pornographic.  Remember back in May when Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer said “Part of our strategy here is to let Tumblr be Tumblr.”?  The quick destruction of Tumblr by Yahoo is underway, thanks to her leadership.  We reached out to David Karp (founder of Tumblr) for comment, though have not received a response.

UPDATE: Yahoo has quietly re-added search engine indexing over the weekend, at least according to a statement given to ZDNET:

The two options (“NSFW” and “Adult”) were clearly causing confusion, so we’ve dropped the extra option. If your blog contains anything too sexy for the average workplace, simply check “Flag this blog as NSFW” so people in Safe Mode can avoid it. Your blog will still be indexed by third-party search engines.

UPDATE #2: Tumblr’s people have reached out to us with the following statement- apparently the backlash was pretty significant, prompting them to make changes to the platform over the weekend:

All, we’ve heard from a bunch of you who are concerned about Tumblr censoring NSFW/adult content. While there seems to be a lot of misinformation flying around, most of the confusion seems to stem from our complicated flagging/filtering features. Let me clear up (and fix) a few things:

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1. Last year, we added “Safe Mode” which lets you filter out NSFW content from tag and search pages. This is enabled by default for new users and can be toggled in your Dashboard Settings. As some of you have pointed out, disabling Safe Mode still wasn’t allowing search results from all blogs to appear. This has been fixed.

2. Some search terms are blocked (returning no results) in some of our mobile apps. Unfortunately, different app environments have different requirements that we do our best to adhere to. The reason you see innocent tags like #gay being blocked on certain platforms is that they are still frequently returning adult content which our entire app was close to being banned for. The solution is more intelligent filtering which our team is working diligently on. We’ll get there soon. In the meantime, you can browse #lgbtq— which is moderated by our community editors — in all of Tumblr’s mobile apps. You can also see unfiltered search results on tumblr.com using your mobile web browser.

3. Earlier this year, in an effort to discourage some not-so-nice people from using Tumblr as free hosting for spammy commercial porn sites, we started delisting this tiny subset of blogs from search engines like Google. This was never intended to be an opt-in flag, but for some reason could be enabled after checking off NSFW ? Adult in your blog settings. This was confusing and unnecessary, so we’ve dropped the extra option. If your blog contains anything too sexy for the average workplace, simply check “Flag this blog as NSFW” so people in Safe Mode can avoid it. Your blog will still be promoted in third-party search engines.

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Aside from these fixes, there haven’t been any recent changes to Tumblr’s treatment of NSFW content, and our view on the topic hasn’t changed. Empowering your creative expression is the most important thing in the world to us. Making sure people aren’t surprised by content they find offensive is also incredibly important and we are always working to put more control in your hands.

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