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Tumblr says nudes are back on the menu – within reason

But old 'go nuts, show nuts' attitude is dead for good

Tumblr has reversed course on its 2018 nudity ban, welcoming some – but not all – adult content creators back to the platform after a four-year hiatus.

Staff announced the change earlier this week, which the company said is the next step in welcoming a broader range of expression and art back to the platform "that includes the naked human form." 

Whew, it's all about art. Because for a moment there...

Tumblr said the decision was made since the September introduction of community labels, which allow users to tag their content under a catch-all mature banner or more particular topics of drug and alcohol addiction, violence or sexual themes. 

With the introduction of the labels, Tumblr says it's time to bring back the nudes, though "visual depictions of sexually explicit acts remain off-limits," as does content with "an overt focus on genitalia." 

Nudes are back, but "go nuts, show nuts" attitude isn't

Tumblr's decision to ban adult content from its website was a blow to the company, leading to the departure of around a third of its users.

In a 2018 blog post, then CEO Jeff D'Onofrio said that leadership made its decision as a result of "serious thought" on how to build "a better Tumblr." According to D'Onofrio, that meant, among other things, "no longer allowing adult content, including explicit sexual content and nudity."

While framing the decision as one based on improving user experience and customer relationships, the move came shortly after Tumblr's iOS app was banned from Apple's App Store for distributing child pornography.

D'Onofrio stressed in his blog post that anything harmful to minors "is abhorrent and has no place in our community." This week's reversal maintains that stance, as well as making clear that Tumblr still doesn't allow "hate, spam, violent threats, or anything illegal."

But the reality of the situation may be different still, as current Tumblr CEO Matt Mullenweg said in a post in late September before the ban was lifted but while Tumblr leaders were discussing it.

Mullenweg, one of the original developers of WordPress and current CEO of Automattic, which manages the Wordpress Organization among other software products, was behind the 2019 purchase of Tumblr from Verizon for a mere $3 million after the telco purchased it for $1.1 billion along with Yahoo! in 2017 (the total Verizon-Yahoo! deal was valued at $4.8 billion). 

It was Verizon, Mullenweng said, that was behind the nudity ban "that took out not only porn but also a ton of art and artists."

Mullenweg said he agrees with Tumblr's old adage of "go nuts, show nuts," but said that the internet's era of casual porn friendliness has come to an end so Tumblr has to move with the times.

Credit card companies have taken anti-porn positions, Mullenweg said, as evidenced by Pornhub being forced to turn to cryptocurrencies to take payments as credit card networks have decided they don't want to be associated with certain material. Likewise, Mastercard decided last year to put the onus on banks using its network to certify that adult content sellers have controls in place to remove illegal content, again effectively eliminating adult content creators from accessing digital payments.

"Whatever crypto-utopia might come in the coming decades, today if you are blocked from banks, credit card processing, and financial services, you're blocked from the modern economy," Mullenweg said.

"I do hope that a dedicated service or company is started that will replace what people used to get from porn on Tumblr," Mullenweg said.

Mullenweg added: "Don't attack companies following legal and business realities as they exist." ®

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