I recently spoke to Katie Van Syckle at the New York Times about micro-blogging platform Tumblr’s recent decision to change its terms of service and community guidelines. As a result, adult content is no longer permitted on the site.

Van Syckle and co-author Jonah Engel Bromwich wrote this about the change:

Tumblr announced on Monday that, starting Dec. 17, what it calls “adult content” will no longer be allowed on the website. The company, which is owned by Yahoo, is defining adult content primarily 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.” (Tumblr will continue to allow images of breast-feeding and nudity in art.)

The reaction from users was swift. A Change.org petition started by someone who identified as a NSFW (short for “not safe for work”) Tumblr artist drew hundreds of thousands of signatures in just two days, with many commenters decrying the decision. But critics applauded the move, citing the site’s lax policing of piracy and arguing that Tumblr does not do enough to keep minors from having access to pornography.

I spoke to Van Syckle about many things related to Tumblr, including rampant piracy on the site and the fact that most of the “unique” or “alternative” or “progressive” or “feminist” GIF content posted there is just recut versions of “mainstream” adult content. Because consumers know so little about adult content production in general, this makes it easy to not know that what you’re watching as erotica on Tumblr is just an ordinary scene recut/reedited and/or with a filter over it.

That was just one of several points, but sadly only a quick line made the final piece. Here it is:

“This is how porn started on the internet, with these little thumbnail galleries back in the late ’90s,” said Chauntelle Tibbals, the author of “Exposure: A Sociologist Explores Sex, Society, and Adult Entertainment.” 

Not the point I thought would get in there (Tumblr being a bit of a throwback), but hey — the fact that journalists are willing to see out knowledgeable sources about a still-taboo topic is a good thing.

Read the full article in the New York Times here: “Tumblr Fans Abandon Ship as Tumblr Bans Porn” (December 6, 2018).

Image via Annie Ballard.

Got a sociology question? Need some social justice informed life advice? Contact Dr. Chauntelle right here.

Get your copy of Exposure: A Sociologist Explores Sex, Society, and Adult Entertainment on Amazon here.I

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