Thursday 6 December 2018

Tumblr Tosh

According to my archives, I joined Tumblr on 13th April 2014, heading towards five years ago. I created my tumblr due to difficulties artist friends had encountered on Facebook. Artists had found a more tolerant platform in Tumblr. I myself fell foul of the former’s rules when in an article on penile health-issues I used a photograph of a diseased penis, surely a relevant use of such an image. Who knew that attempting to assist and educate on health-issues could be so contentious in the twenty-first century!

My Tumblr-blog is very personal to me. I have collated images, writings & poetry that have influenced my past and those pieces that speak to me today. Some speak to me intellectually; some emotionally; some spiritually & religiously; and some sexually. I have shared artworks from Ancient Egypt, Greece & Rome amongst other cultures all the way to the avant-garde of the contemporary Art-world.

I deliberately flagged it to Tumblr as “explicit”, because there are images that might cause offence to the uneducated and illiberal of whom there are many in this world.

As of midnight on 5th December 2018 there were 108,052 posts on my tumblr. Over the past two days I have scoured each & every post to determine whether there have been any issues up to now and, if so, what type of problem.

1 item was removed as it breached someone’s privacy.

1 item was removed as it breached someone’s copyright.

2 items were removed as they breached Tumblr’s community guidelines.

4 items had disappeared at source, so I cannot determine whether or not there was a breach of Tumblr’s acceptable posts.

If one includes the latter category, there were a total of eight removed items. Thus less than 0.008% of the images I have blogged have proved problematic heretofore.

I cannot be exact, but I would hazard an educated guess that some 5-10% of my posts will be in breach of the new guidelines. I quote below the full guidance as notified to users on Tumblr (I was advised 5th December).

Today we announced some big updates to our Community Guidelines and what kind of content is permitted on Tumblr. Adult content will no longer be allowed here. While we do not judge anyone for their desire to post, engage with, or view this stuff, it is time for us to change our relationship with it.

We expect you may have some questions on how this will affect you, and we’re here to make sure those questions get answered.

When does the new policy take effect?

Our new Community Guidelines will go into effect on December 17, 2018.
Newly uploaded content flagged as adult will no longer be allowed on Tumblr. We’ll also begin flagging and removing existing adult content with the ultimate goal of removing as much of it as we can.

What is considered adult content?

Adult content primarily includes 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.

What is still permitted?

Examples of exceptions that are still permitted are 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, are also stuff that can be freely posted on Tumblr.

What about Safe Mode?

Our new policy negates the need for Safe Mode so this feature will no longer exist. These new policies are the same regardless of your age. Read more here.

My content was flagged, but I don’t think it should be. What should I do?

If you feel that we have categorized your post incorrectly, you can appeal this decision with the form that was sent to you via email or use the button on the post in question. Please note that this process is only possible to complete on the web or with Tumblr app version 12.2 or higher.

Read more about how to review your content and appeal here.

What goes into classifying content as adult?

This work requires a mix of machine-learning classification and human moderation by our Trust & Safety team—the group of individuals who help moderate Tumblr. We’ve been expanding the team to handle the increased workload, and we will continue to expand as needed.
Computers are better than humans at scaling process—and we need them for that—but they’re not as good at making nuanced, contextual decisions. This is an evolving process for all of us, and we’re committed to getting this right. That’s why when you appeal a post we’ve marked as adult, it gets sent to a real, live human who will look it over with their real, live human eye(s).

Will I see any adult content on Tumblr after December 17, 2018?

Due to the technical challenges that come with moderation at scale you may continue to see some adult content. This is true for all types of content that might be in violation of our guidelines. At any given moment, millions of people are posting to Tumblr. To review everything and to get it right is complex, but we’re committed to continuously improving.

As always, if you see a post with adult content that you don’t want to see, you can report it directly to our Trust & Safety team. Learn about how to report content here.

What will happen to my adult content already on Tumblr?

Starting today, we will begin sending out email notices to members of the Tumblr community whose content has been flagged as adult. This email will provide a link to the post(s) in question and a form to appeal our decision if you think we have made a mistake. Starting on December 17, 2018, any post(s) that have been flagged will be reverted to a private setting viewable only by you. If you want to learn more about how to see those posts, please visit our Help Center.
As always, please make sure the email associated with your Tumblr account is one you use regularly. It’s how we get in touch when we need you!
You can also download the contents of your blog(s) before these policy changes take effect. Find out how here.

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.

You can check and see if your blog is marked as explicit per our old policy in your visibility settings. If you think your blog has been erroneously marked as explicit, please send an appeal here.

Will I get kicked off of Tumblr if I’ve uploaded adult content in the past?

We’re removing content, not people. However, those who repeatedly and deliberately post new content that violates our updated guidelines may have their account deactivated per our Terms of Service. If you feel you’ve been incorrectly suspended, you can appeal here.

What if I reblogged adult content?

The original poster of the content will be notified of its removal, and it will no longer be on your blog.

What if I have more “What if” questions?

We got you. You can review our updated Community Guidelines right over here. If you still haven’t found an answer to your question, you can ask our support team.

I hope the reader took the time to read the full guidelines. I shall now endeavour to demonstrate the guidelines are ill-thought-through and show that they are by no means “full”.


What is the rationale behind permitting male nipples but not female nipples?

Women’s nipples are as natural as men’s.

Women’s nipples can be seen on beaches throughout Europe and many countries elsewhere in the world, such as Brazil. Women’s nipples can be seen in public when breast-feeding almost anywhere in the world. They can also be seen in people’s homes and any establishment or place where nakedness is permitted.

This ban additionally effects many images of tribal women because of the nipple issue. Why? This is Tumblr moving into racist territory if it does not expand its exclusions. Tumblr has already shown itself to be sexist in its different treatment of men and women’s physiologies.


What is the rationale for banning genitalia?

We all have genitals: some have penes; some have vulvæ; some have both; some are born with none. Being able to see genitalia normalises them. This is also educative. I still occasionally see an erect penis type I have not previously encountered.

As a teenager I thought I had a congenital STI due to the way hair-follicles appear on my erect penis. It was only through seeing erect penes like my own, that I realised I have a perfectly healthy penis. We need to see the vast panoply of genitalia: for self-identity; for sex-education; and for sexuality.

All erections are NOT sexual. As I discovered at age thirteen in my first sex-education classes, I was not some kind of sexual pervert because I constantly experienced erections on diesel-powered ‘buses. Vibrations can quite easily stimulate an erection with no thought of sex. This is one type of non-sexual erection, another is morning-wood. This latter erection men experience when rousing from slumber with the need to urinate. Again boys need to know and learn this is perfectly normal and not some kind of sexual-perversion.

Why should we not be permitted so see the erect penis? Tumblr has not justified its ban. Fundamentally we all have genitalia: why should we not see images of them? Why such prudery? Prudery is what leads to prurience. But Tumblr is demonstrating just how prudish it has become.

I wonder how Tumblr is going to deal with images from Japan’s annual Kanamara Matusuri festival, when giant phalli are openly paraded through the streets!

Nakedness & Nudity:

Apparently nudity is now only acceptable if it is a piece of Art. Nudity within Art that illustrates sexual acts are not explicitly prohibited nor are they precluded from prohibition. There are a great deal of artworks, including by very famous artists, that depict naked/nude figures, sex-acts and even rape. Will all these artworks be banned? I should point out here that I can take a child into art-galleries & musea across Europe where all sorts of images that are now banned on Tumblr are publicly viewable. Tumblr demonstrates that it is Philistine, despite its superficial aim of not precluding artworks, it is inevitable that it will do so.

Here in Europe we see nudity on beaches, in the changing-rooms & showers at public swimming-pools, gymnasia and so on, and specialist campsites & establishments for nudists/naturists. Some countries in Europe have very permissive laws on nudity, such as Germany, where public nudity is in the main allowed. Many countries permit public nudity within certain constraints, for example annual naked bike-rides. Even some areas of the US, e.g. Folsom Street Fair in San Francisco. And so on. Even in the UK I am entitled to sunbathe naked in my own garden or move around naked in my own home without ensuring all curtains and blinds are drawn to. Nakedness is ubiquitous. Tumblr is being anti-European.

Being without clothes is our natural state. Being obsessed about covering up is what leads to perverted and wrong-thinking about body, gender and sex issues. Tumblr is imposing a very narrow, infantilist and Puritanical view of the body and sex upon the rest of the world.


Art is meant to challenge us. Art is meant to shock us. Art is meant to show us what has not been seen or has been forgotten. Art is meant to be free to explore anything and everything. Art is meant to create works that speak to us on all sorts of levels about the artist’s discoveries, explorations and even their unanswered questions.

Ostensibly Artworks are protected by the new guidelines. But if one looks closely, it can be seen that Tumblr is particularly attacking photography and illustration. It is the artists, whether professional or amateur or hobbyist, working in these areas who will suffer the most. It is photographers & illustrators who are going to be the artists constantly picked upon for depicting the human-body, for exploring gender-issues and sexuality. Art-lovers who share photos or illustrations are going to find themselves rapped over the knuckles and ultimately banned if they do not kowtow to Tumblr’s edicts. Established artists from history appear to be protected. But why is older artwork acceptable, but not that of up-and-coming, non-established artists who are working hard to establish and advance their careers? 

As stated earlier, Tumblr has not clarified how it is going to treat artworks that portray sex or sexuality.

So then, why is Tumblr obsessing about sex and sexuality, why has it not set out how it is going to purge racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic posts. What about violence? Let’s face it, the US has a huge problem with violence. The harms from violence massively outweigh the harms from openness about sex & sexuality.


Tumblr talks about community. Tumblr welcomed me when I signed up. Tumblr thanked me when I marked my blog as explicit. Tumblr has consistently issued me with reminders of how much I have liked & shared and exhorted me to carry on. The last was 17th June this year when I had reached 100K posts.

Now Tumblr turns volte face, and I am a pariah because of what I share. This is completely unacceptable: it is unreasonable, indeed I should go as far as to say irrational.

Tumblr states that it has “been expanding the team to handle increased workload” due to these changes. This means they have known about these changes for some time, as businesses to not normally employ folk overnight. Why then could they not at least have had the common-courtesy to give we users proper advance warning rather than a few short days. Indeed, one could read the changes as no forewarning at all given that some changes were effective from publication of the new guidelines. This is Tumblr being discourteous.

What was acceptable heretofore is now not. I have been given less than a fortnight (two weeks) to check over 100,000 images to try and salvage anything I suspect may be deleted.

As a long-standing member of the Tumblr community I was not asked for my opinions, thoughts, my in-put. I, and I suspect most Tumblr-users, have been completely overlooked, ignored. What kind of a community does that? Only a totalitarian one. This all reminds me very much of the book-burnings in pre-WWII Germany: let’s get rid of anything that does not fit the current Zeitgeist.

I am a member of the queer community. We LGBTI folk are much more open to exploring issues of gender, sex & sexuality. Sex is a huge part of our culture. These moves by Tumblr will disproportionately effect my sub-community. Folk will invariably decide to move elsewhere, away from Tumblr, to more accepting platforms. Whether intentionally or not Tumblr’s new guidelines and the outcomes of same are homophobic.

Tumblr has shown itself to be irrational, discourteous, prudish, infantilist, Puritanical, totalitarian, anti-European, Philistine, sexist, potentially racist, and homophobic.

I can only hope that Tumblr comes to its senses and revisits these ill-advised changes.


Now try to determine whether or not the image below, currently on my Tumblr-blog, should be banned. Is a man resting his eyes whilst bathing or is he masturbating in the tub? Why do you think I gave this example?


  1. I totally agree with the points you have made so well. Very informative !Free speech is a vital aspect of our democracy. Freedom of expression if we loose these what kind of society will we have !!!