Tumblr/pardonmewhileipanic
Samantha Chavarria
December 07, 2018 9:37 am

There’s no denying that social media has opened up entire worlds to those who use it. Whether you use it for networking to grow your business or connecting with a previously unreachable audience, social media platforms have changed how we conduct business and communicate with each other. But the rise of social media isn’t without its issues.

While it opens doors to the First Amendment right to freedom of speech, it also provides a platform for hate speech. And as much as it allows artistic expression and the free exchange of ideas, it also enables exploitation of the marginalized.

The recent discovery that social media giant Facebook had not only sold user information but was also used as a tool to spread misinformation by the Russian government is one example of this truth. The existence of active white nationalist and Nazi Twitter accounts is another. Now, Tumblr is directly harming its users with controversial policies of its own.

On December 3rd, the Verizon-owned blogging site announced that it will begin banning all adult content on December 17th. According to a blog post about the Tumblr porn ban, this 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.”

Tumblr says it is making this change to halt the spread of child pornography on the platform—the Tumblr app was recently removed from the App Store for this reason—but the complete restriction of “adult” content isn’t an effective solution.

Tumblr is a place where body- and sex-positivity communities have found great support. Artwork, thinkpieces, testimonials, and even GIFs dedicated to the celebration of unique body types and sexual exploration are common. It’s not unusual to scroll through your Tumblr feed and find explicit content wedged between completely innocuous posts.

The great thing about this little corner of the internet is that men aren’t calling the shots when it comes to adult content. Tumblr is unique in the fact that many women and gender non-conforming individuals contribute to and control much of the porn found on the site.

Sex workers, in particular, use the website as a place to connect with and advertise to their potential clients; it provides a safe place for them to set the terms of their business. Tumblr provides safeguards and protections that sex workers desperately need; for example, users can block particular people from viewing their posts and limit the extent to which others can contact them. Considering that sex work is a dangerous profession often occupied by already marginalized individuals, having a safe place to operate their businesses is essential.

Tumblr’s plan to remove all adult content jeopardizes the livelihood and safety of the sex workers who depend on the site. And this seems to be a deliberate move, because the porn ban will begin on December 17th, International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers.

It’s a reality that the sex worker community is already preparing for.

Tumblr user Pardonmewhileipanic, who goes by Juicy Jacqulyn, is an NSFW model and extremely vocal member of the sex-worker community. Based on her experience in her line of work, Jacqulyn sees the porn ban as both deliberate and dangerous.

“It’s telling that rather than targeting actual causes of child porn, they are just mass banning everyone, despite age and consent levels, in what is clearly a [misogynist] and sex worker-hating tactic, all under the excuse of being against child porn,” Jacqulyn told HelloGiggles.

The fact that this tactic hasn’t been used before—namely in addressing the platform’s problem with white supremacists, homophobes, and violent trolls—is a gross hypocrisy.

Just like Twitter and Facebook, Tumblr has become a site that right-wing extremists and other bigots use to spread their hateful messages. Tumblr users have called for a mass ban of these accounts, especially the ones that have displayed explicitly violent behavior. For example, this Change.org petition asking for Tumblr to remove neo-Nazis and white supremacists earned over 17,000 signatures, but the site ignored the request.

“These same mass-banning abilities have never been used to remove targeted harassment accounts, homophobic accounts, or literal Nazi accounts, which are easily searched for within the site,” Jacqulyn explained. “[Tumblr has] always been able to remove the actual awful things from the site but chose not to, and instead target a group of people who tend to fall into many intersecting categories of oppression, while leaving folks with Nazi blogs alone to do and post anything they want.”

Instead of looking at its own moderating system to solve problems of child pornography, Nazism, racism, homophobia, and other targeted hate, Tumblr has chosen to go all out and alienate already marginalized users. There’s no telling if this effort will work, but it it definitely has the potential to hurt many.

Ultimately, there may be a mass exodus from the site as users look to other platforms— such as Discord servers, Pillowfort, and Ghost— to fulfill their needs. Because between the hypocrisy and open disregard for users, Tumblr just isn’t cutting it.

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