Tumblr Removed From Apple's App Store Following Child Porn Scandal

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When Friendster, MySpace and AIM Messenger were regular fixtures in the world of virtual interaction during the early 2000s, the popularity of social media platforms has been on the increase ever since — becoming integral parts of everyday life around the world. Fast forward to 2018, social media is now used by billions of people. Whether more international platforms such as Facebook and Twitter or more local names like China’s Weibo and Russia’s VKontake, one of the main problems of moderating social media content is the prevention of child pornography from being posted and viewed online.

The creation and consumption of child pornography are against the law since it violates the rights of the innocent, vulnerable children who are abused by the individual or groups posting the sexually explicit images or videos of them. One social media platform that has been in hot water currently is Tumblr, a microblogging website where users post short blogs about content that they are passionate about. Unfortunately, a substantial amount of child porn that was found on Tumblr led Apple to remove it from the App Store.

Tumblr, which boasts 447 million blogs that are viewed by a monthly audience of 500 million visitors, conducted an internal audit and the social media platform determined that some of its users had been sharing media content that featured moments of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Although Tumblr had maintained a strict policy of carefully scanning illicit material and blocking all forms of media relating to child pornography, it was still pulled off of the App Store due to a violation of the latter’s regulations. The app has yet to be removed from Android’s Google Play Store.

Due to the discovery of the content, Tumblr’s Help Center had to inform its users, importantly those who view Tumblr content on iPhones, that the iOS app needed to be updated so that the inappropriate content will be fully removed and that the correct content safeguards should now be implemented to protect Tumblr’s security. The new content safeguards should also protect minors who are not only Tumblr users themselves but also the children that had been exploited through the media content that that the uploader(s) had posted of them, especially since Tumblr later announced that any form of pornography, legal and illegal, is now banned in response to the App Store removal.

The ban on pornographic material in the microblogs, which will be effective on Dec. 17, is considered to be the demise of “one of the last refuges” for sexually explicit images on social media. Any photo, video and GIF that depicts male and female genitalia depicted in a sexual manner, as well as any depiction of sexual intercourse, will no longer be allowed to be uploaded on any of Tumblr’s microblogs except if the content relates to scientific purposes such as breastfeeding and gender reassignment surgery.

Tumblr chief executive Jeff D’Onofrio wrote on a blog post that the change in media moderation at Tumblr is due to a desire of the company to continue encouraging free speech among its users but also emphasizing that any form of speech or content on Tumblr that supports or actively conducts any activity that abuses people in a racial, violent or sexual manner. On another blog post that D’Onofrio wrote on Dec. 3, he stated that there is “no shortage of sites on the Internet that feature adult content” and that the change in content policy is meant to block illicit child pornographic material while continuing to allow Tumblr to be a place where free speech continues to thrive amongst members of the online community.

However, there are people in the Tumblr community who aren’t fond of the ban on legal pornography since the website is known for broadcasting explicit content that caters to different forms of interests ranging from animated fan-fiction erotica that shows sexual intercourse to amateur-produced videos. The ban on child pornographic material is absolutely needed to prevent sexual abuse and exploitation of minors but some Tumblr users believed that the pornography ban will restrict the expression of artists that use Tumblr as a portfolio for their works of sexual art.

As mentioned earlier, any form of media on Tumblr that shows acts of sexual intercourse, including photos, videos, and GIFs will be banned from the microblogging website except in the case of scientific or health-related situations such as breastfeeding and childbirth. However, any illustrations or works of art that contain nudity are still allowed, just as long as sex isn’t involved, as well as nude classical statues and political protests.

Any pornographic content that is still present or published on the users’ microblogs after Dec. 17 will now be flagged and deleted by algorithms and that their posts will have to be set to private, which will prevent their posts from being shared by the Tumblr community. The course of action that Tumblr is taking should not be considered as a violation of free speech but as an expression of combat against the sexual abuse and exploitation of minors on the Internet and that the ban will prevent more children from being shown in a sexual manner, whether on Tumblr, other social networks such as Instagram and Snapchat, and various pornographic websites.