Tumblr Porn Returns: CEO David Karp Clarifies New NSFW, LBGT Search Policies

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Tumblr angered many of its users last week when it unveiled a new NSFW policy that effectively made 10 percent of users invisible on the microblogging social network. In addition to hiding porn blogs from search, Tumblr also blocked search terms such as #gay, #lesbian and #bisexual, which upset LBGTQ advocates

Tumblr heard the criticism, and founder and CEO David Karp released a blog post explaining the policy decisions. Karp said a few of the issues were due to bugs that have been fixed, and Tumblr would remove the new “adult” flag that blocked NSFW blogs from search engines.

Karp said a major problem stemmed from a bug with Tumblr’s “Safe Mode” feature, which continued filtering content even after a user turned it off. Karp said this bug has been fixed. 

As far as the blocked terms, Karp said this was a problem when searching on a mobile app.

“Unfortunately, different app environments have different requirements that we do our best to adhere to,” Karp said in the blog post. Apple’s iTunes store, which has a notoriously strict anti-adult content policy, is probably a major culprit.

“The reason you see innocent tags like #gay being locked on certain platforms is that they are still frequently returning adult content, which our entire app was to being banned for. The solution is more intelligent filtering which our team is working diligently on. We'll get there soon. In the meantime, you can browse #lgbtq — which is moderated by our community editors — in all of Tumblr's mobile apps. You can also see unfiltered search results on tumblr.com using your mobile web browser”

Karp also said that Tumblr started blocking a “tiny subset” of a blog from Google searches for using Tumblr to host “spammy commercial porn.” Karp said the answer to this problem, the adult tag, was simply too confusing and has been discontinued. If content is marked as “NSFW,” it'll be filtered out by Safe Mode but still appear in search engine results.

The update was appreciated by the Tumblr community and helped relieve the concern that Tumblr had just become a stooge for Yahoo.

“Empowering your creative expression is the most important thing in the world to us,” Karp said.

We'll see how long Yahoo supports that sentiment. 

Follow Ryan W. Neal on Twitter.

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