Some of you may be familiar with Tumblr, the pre-eminent microblogging platform of the decade. Some of you may have heard that Tumblr has decided to ban all adult content on its platform starting december 17.

It's a problem partly because banning adult content tends to also hurt left-of-center folks, since their political discussions and forums are frequently entangled with adult content, the desire for personal freedom necessarily involving sexual freedom. it's also a problem because it's a big hit to prostitutes, who are finding it harder to find good places online to work safely and screen their clients, and in light of the above point about sexual freedom, the market for prostitution never goes away, you can't MAKE it go away, you can only make it underground and more dangerous, like banning alcohol or Marijuana. 

(I am especially incensed that the staff decided to implement the ban on December 17, the International Sex Workers Day of Visibility. Talk about a rude gesture.)

Now, if this were any other website, the political issues would be most of the problem. 

This is Tumblr. Well-known among users for having code that breaks during every update, no moderation to speak of, and a workplace culture that is best described as "utter mess", it is not at all surprising that Tumblr would seek to pursue its ban in the laziest manner possible: a bot that flags posts.

Now, I understand that after having failed to moderate the site for year after year, to the point that Tumblr wound up hosting child pornography, a bot may have been the only way to actually get rid of the bad stuff. I also understand that moderating that sort of thing is emotionally difficult at best, considering what Facebook mods go through. But to make it go after ALL adult content, well, that's a bit different -- presumably the CEO of Yahoo thinks that the only way to make ad money off the site is to get rid of the porn, because advertisers don't like to post ads on racy websites. I always wondered why Tumblr had the stupidest and weirdest ads I had ever seen -- it may be that the site was scraping the bottom of the barrel there.

Now, if it were any other site, the banbot would presumably operate in a harsh but fair manner, as programs do -- they execute their task like a machine. See a boob? Ban it! See a dick? Ban it! And so forth. Sweep it all away all at once like a giant broom.


This is Tumblr

And the bot appears to have been implemented without any traning whatsoever. In the past few days the userbase has been howling with laughter at the seemingly random, totally nonsensical means by which the bot chooses to flag a post -- flagged posts so far include a woman wearing a brown robe, a foot, a couple screen caps from LOTR, two men kissing, two women kissing, pictures of minerals, pictures of fossils, a picture of sand dunes...and this is the best one -- Tumblr Staff's own, completely textual explanatory post about the flagbot.

Meanwhile I see someone's post of them with their tits out, and it didn't get flagged, and I post a different picture of boobs and put a very light photoshop filter over it, and that fools the flagbot. Moreover, when I reblog my own flagged post, it doesn't flag the reblog even though the reblog contains the original offending image.

It may be that the bot was released in a way that would cause it to slowly learn what was NSFW, based on user complaints. That's the scuttebutt on Tumblr, at the very least. That would constitute a horrible abuse of the userbase, a group of people that Yahoo clearly thinks is disposable and replacebale. 

In the meantime, none of my posts actually show up on my own Tumblr Blog webpage; they only show up in the feed on my dashboard. And this has been happening to everyone.

The current mood of Tumblr is that we're all laughing hysterically as the ship sinks, because the captain blew up the boiler room to get rid of the rats. 


The bot just flagged a picture of an extinct sea creature.


The bot is now flagging pictures of bread.