It’s been almost a month since Tumblr removed all adult and pornographic content from their popular social blogging platform. This was a huge blow to their user base. Tumblr had become an online haven for adult content and expression. It has become a place for people to express their fetishes and find others of like mind. Tumblr was particularly powerful for its ability to share content. If you found a picture you liked or wanted to supporting something you could simply repost it to your blog. The more reposts, the better the content.
Tumblr, The Maligned Social Platform
Tumblr has always struggled as a platform. It was purchased by Yahoo in 2013. It was Yahoo’s way to getting into social media, however, they have never really taken advantage of the platform or given it the support it needed. To some degree, Tumblr became a joke because of the strident social justice warrior posts that have spread across the internet. Tumblr was known as the qwerky platform where if you said something sexist or LGBTQA-phobic, armies of angry people would bury you with seemingly illogical statements that made no sense.
However, Tumblr wasn’t just and SJW hangout. Tumblr was a haven for those wanting to post adult pictures from it’s earliest days and until recently, Yahoo seemed content to continue to let that go on, until two things happened: FOSHA legislation and Apple.
In 2018, Congress passed a law making platforms responsible for illegal activities that may occur on their platforms. Ostensibly, this law was meant to stop human trafficking and the use of online platforms to traffic people and exploit them. However, this meant that platforms had to censor everything on their platform for that activity. That’s hundreds of thousands of posts and reposts per day for Tumblr. In response, Apple, removed the Tumblr app from its app store until it complied. To get back in the app store, Tumblr took steps to remove all adult content from their platform. Although the announcement of a December end to all adult content generated plenty of press and angry users, Tumblr had been banning blogs for awhile that had overt adult content. Some users would wake up one day and years of work and content would simply vanish.
So what’s next for Tumblr’s exiled users? The site most people were looking to move towards is called Pillowfort. However, the site does not have a dedicated development team and was only recently launched via and kickstarter and indiegogo campaign. Julia Baritz is the brainchild behind it and admits that the site is not ready to accept that many new users. They have rolled out beta invites to a precious few people and some say the website barely works most of the time (We were unable to get a beta invite for this story ourselves to test that). However, it’s not clear of Pillowfort would have the same legal consequences and burdens as Tumblr. If all websites have to comply with this legislation and the only way is to ban adult content, what do fans of adult content do?
How to Host Adult Content Safely
One thing in this entire scandal is very clear: people want to visit adult content online. The popularity of sites like Pornhub, youporn and all the other sort of sites like that prove that people want to have places where they can be adults and share adult content. Clearly, there is demand for this sort of service, so how do we make sure that we can protect those under age and also prevent human trafficking?
This is where the rubber meets the road for technology companies. The internet is a mature technology that has real world consequences ranging from human trafficking to presidential elections. It is time technology companies put their many minds to work figuring out how to actually be apart of the world rather than trying to exist above it or to the side of it. There is very little difference between the online and online worlds. Those are increasingly becoming one. We might still think of them as two separate things but the reality is that the internet is just as much apart of reality has a highway or a building and it’s time we start creating ways to regulate the internet is ways that reflects that reality. We already have basic age verification technology that we can deploy and technology companies are going to have to develop ways and methods of identifying trafficking victims and other activity and pass that technology onto law enforcement. These companies collect untold amounts of data on their users (we the people), this should not out of the realm of possibility.