Great Tumblr Kerfuffle

Tumblr is an interesting thing. It’s a blogging platform firmly entrenched in social media elements that’s fairly user-friendly in design. I actually have always really liked most of the functionality of Tumblr (really wish I could totally nix the private message/chat, though — that was never there when I originally used Tumblr and I’d just as well wish it wasn’t.)

The site is home to many creatives, which is how it started out for me when I first created my own Tumblr. Then it became a home to fandoms, which is how I expanded further into Tumblr, originally with GW2 role play and story blogs. 

It’s retained this sense of being a place for creative freedom… but we all know how there tends to be a dark underbelly to any freedom when it comes to being on the Internet. It’s a sad reality, and Tumblr also became known for being a place of adult content. Once that sort of thing gets started, it’s really hard to keep in check.

And that’s kinda what got Tumblr in trouble as of late, and their iOS app removed from the Apple Store completely

Obvious to those who follow this blog, I’m not they type to post adult content of any sort. When I launched a Tumblr for my FFXIV RP alt, I took a lot of steps to block NSFW tags, blogs, phrases and images. I personally have no desire to see these things, and have done a pretty good job of avoiding this content since I returned to Tumblr back in June. 

Migrating Slowly

I got an itchy feeling last week about the whole situation, especially when someone brought up the demise of GeoCities and Live Journal, both platforms I used in my past. While I wouldn’t fall apart if my RP Tumblr vanished (and some people are losing their Tumblrs into thin air during this), I do have writing I want to save. 

Last month, I started moving some of my writing over to AO3, just as a backup option, and an attempt to expand the audience. 

But last week, I decided to take the plunge and set up a full transfer of content to my own self-hosted WordPress. So I picked up the domain and have been working on cleaning up the content (images don’t fully transfer off Tumblr in many instances). 

I also launched a Twitter account for my RP character… which didn’t see much in the way of activity until yesterday. What happened yesterday? Well… 

Tumblr’s Big Decision 

Yesterday, Tumblr announced that they will no longer allow adult content (mostly images) on their platform. Of course this unfolded a lot like what you’d expect. 

Folks who saw Tumblr as a free and safe space to post anything and everything to were suddenly informed there are new rules and consequences. While I don’t completely disagree with this turn of events, especially in terms of images that portray children in adult content, even I can see that Tumblr is flagging down a lot of innocent posts in its zeal to roll out this choice. 

I haven’t had content flagged of my own (that I’ve seen), but I’ve reblogged things that were flagged, and know blogs that disappeared completely. Trust me, there is no adult content in something I reblog, and what I saw flagged was really silly.

So these false flags are not helping the public opinion. 

Interestingly, it seems that some Tumblr folks are migrating over to Twitter now, if only just to give it a try. This is ironic, given that I’d just set up a Twitter last week. So, in the space of a day, I’ve seen my account go from 2 followers to 52 followers, and a bunch of interaction between folks that I knew from Tumblr. 

I don’t know how sticky Twitter will be for these people, but I am learning a lot about how Twitter works. While I’ve had a main Twitter account for many years, I admit that I never really dove into it much — lately topics tend to get a bit too political for my tastes. But the more I’ve fiddled with settings and explored options, the more I really do like it as a place for tiny snippets of RP interaction. 

What’s going to happen with Tumblr? Is this the death knell that people are making it out to be? Will it go the way of GeoCities and Live Journal? I guess we’ll have to wait and see. Until then, I still have a Tumblr for some community interaction, but I’m really going to focus on expanding my creative options. 


  1. Never really looked at Tumbler. I don’t Instagram either. Lol. I would not be surprised to see Twitter adopt similar rules in the next year. People can bitch all they want and claim freedom of speech, but in the end they are a business offering a service, either for free, or subscription, they all have user agreements and can change rules when they want. It’s their business and if you disagree? You don’t have to use it.

    1. Yep. Exactly this.

      I only tapped into Tumblr because it’s a place to showcase writing and art directly to the fandom that you want to connect with. It does do some things very well if you know how to use it. I’ve never been able to get into Instagram myself, either.

    2. I’m sure there are plenty of people out there raving about free speech and I’ll facepalm as hard as anyone at that argument, but to be fair there are also a lot of other people getting caught up in yet another child porn panic who weren’t drawing anything more offensive than the stuff in art galleries all over the world. Plus the rules tumblr put out are a huge mess of contradictions complete with snarky comments about their users. They have every right to take this action but I find it difficult to fault people for being upset about it (within reason, the omg free speech people are.. yeah…).

      1. I agree. When a company is forced into making a big censoring change that they probably put together based on what others have in place or where they are trying to make sure some subtle work around to the rule gets through, that it may seem like a scorched earth nuclear decision. I would not be surprised if after the cut date that they will take a look at fine tuning to allow more art. I get the old argument that has been made before that one mans art is another’s porn. It’s not an easy thing to decide what can stay and what should go. Just adding a NSFW, or click here if you are over 18 is not enough of a filter. The next few years are going to be very interesting.

  2. That’s very strange. My perception of Tumblr, mostly derived from the number of times it appears in the vast quantity of YA novels I read, has long been as the spiritual home for creative adolescents of a particularly earnest and artistric bent. I also knew it as the preferred social hub of a certain clique of hipster. I have never heard even a hint of it being a place where “adult” (aka pornographic) content or images were prevalent.

    There are one or two Tumblr blogs in my blog list, I believe. I don’t usually pay much atention to what platform a blog uses but I have been forced to take of late notice because as soon as I try to visit them a warning appears, asking me to sign up to some complicated process I can’t be bothered with, so I leave without looking at the blog I came to read. I thought that was related to GDPR but maybe it’s some attempt to control the kind of issues you’re talking about.

    1. Yeah, it does cater to an artistic type of folk, which was why I have my own Tumblr. Generally, if you’re careful about where you tread, you won’t run across the NSFW. But if you have an account there, you’ll get followed by porn bots and you’ll sometimes see porn bot Tumblrs throwing their images in otherwise safe for work topic searches. That kind of thing.

      I never looked for it, but I knew it existed. Apparently it was bad enough that Apple slapped them on the wrist until they fixed it. And this is what they chose to do.

  3. Tumblr is a private platform, so they get to make the rules. But their plan is to use an automated algorithms to check everything and that is going about as well as expected it seems. You cannot teach the computer the difference between art and porn if you cannot even come up with a legal definition to distinguish the two.

    Remember this when somebody says that sites should automate the filtering of comment sections, forums, or live chat.

  4. Tumblr had a plan in place to remove all adult content before they were removed from the Apple Store (I believe it was called Project X). The removal just gave them reason to enact the ban earlier.

  5. I’ve been considering leaving Tumblr myself for other reasons, and I’m looking at alternative blogging platforms. I note you’re using self-hosted WordPress for this blog; did you experiment with any other platforms? I’m looking for something self-hosted, but I’ve found there are quirks in WordPress (particularly with adding images into posts) that make it a big hassle to get a page looking like I want. Given that you’ve successfully transitioned some of your blogging away from Tumblr, I thought this post would be a perfect opportunity to ask.

    1. Actually, my main blogs have always been on WordPress. I do have a Tumblr for this content, but it’s a mirror site that this blog pushes out to it. I rarely log into that account anymore.

      The stuff I’ve been doing on Tumblr has been primarily social role play within a specific fandom. If interacting with an audience and a fandom is your goal, I know some folks are moving over to — however. They’re in beta, there’s not much in the way of design (you noted that was important to you), and there is a $5 fee for a key to join. I think they’re scaling back on the number of people they’re taking at a time, too. And their server is often down due to the migration load.

      If it’s pure blogging that you are looking for, I’ve not found anything other than WordPress to be better. Just know that you have to build an audience outside of WordPress (especially if you are self-hosted and don’t have the follower system to lean back on).

      There is an export from Tumblr to WordPress built in, BUT… any image that was not part of a Photo post on Tumblr will not import to WordPress. It will remain linked to the image on Tumblr. When I exported my content for my RP blog, I had to manually go through and upload many, many images and check every post to ensure they were pointing to the image on my WordPress and not on Tumblr. It’s a big job, I’m not going to sugar coat it.

      In the end, it’s all about what you’re using Tumblr for, I suppose. If it’s the social networking aspect, you probably won’t find that on WordPress. That’s just the one thing WordPress lacks compared to Tumblr — you’ll have to build up a Twitter or outside social network elsewhere.

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