Queers Raise Fears on Tumblr “Adult Content” Ban

Move stoking anxiety about wider censorship of marginalized groups

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LGBTQ folks and allies alike fear that Tumblr’s decision to ban all “adult content” could represent a slippery slope toward censoring other content pertaining to sexual minorities.

According to Tumblr, 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.”

Beginning December 17, Tumblr says it will begin flagging adult content and remove it from public view, but those who already have posted that content will still be able to access it privately.

Tumblr CEO Jeff D’Onofrio offered an explanation of the ban in a blog post, declaring that the platform has a responsibility to consider its impact “across different age groups, demographics, cultures, and mindsets.”

D’Onofrio further explained that “it became clear that without this content we have the opportunity to create a place where more people feel comfortable expressing themselves.”

The team at Tumblr, he insisted, recognizes that those using the platform should be able to speak freely about topics such as relationships, sexuality, art, and sex positivity, and reaffirmed that the team wants to foster that type of expression. But how far Tumblr plans to go in censoring “illustrati­ons — that depicts sex acts” is among the topics of discussion on social media.

Anthony Oliveira, who creates queer stories and comics, explained in a Twitter post that Tumblr served as “one of the few vectors for grassroots queer art” and argued that banning adult content “will disproportionally stunt and hamstring” artists.

Former NFL player Chris Kluwe, who became known as a vocal straight ally during his playing days, compared Tumblr’s move to when the Nazis burned Germany’s Institute of Sex Research in 1933. Those archives, founded by gay sexologist Magnus Hirshfeld, included significant content related to the LGBTQ community.

The ban marks the most significant steps Tumblr has taken to curtail adult-related content, but some are pointing out that the platform had already moved in this direction. Gavia Baker-Whitelaw, a staff writer at The Daily Dot, claimed that Tumblr has declared posts to be unsafe for work simply because of an “LGBTQ” tag.

The move will be disastrous “for so many Tumblr-based artists and sex workers, and probably will impact random blogs for arbitrary reasons,” Baker-Whitelaw said in a Twitter post..

Ironically, the ban goes into effect on the same day as the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers.

Updated 8:04 pm, December 5, 2018
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