Apple removed the Tumblr app from their store on November 16th due to some child pr0n that slipped through the filters. An article on The Verge says uploaded images are checked against an industry database and these images were ‘absent’ from it.
Tumblr decided they needed to get rid of a lot of NSFW content, but the algorithm they’re using is flagging a whole lot more, including pictures of kittens, Garfield, plastic shark toys, Mario from Mario Bros., boot scrubbers, and one of Mr. Rogers posing for a picture next to a security guard with their feet soaking in a kiddie pool. Whatever’s flagged is gone in two weeks. You can see 30 flagged items on the Uproxx site.
Doing a little more digging into this, I found another article that said this was actually being worked on for several months, but having the app yanked by Apple prompted them to go live before they were ready. The article pointed out the real reason is Verizon, who bought Tumblr, couldn’t sell ads to be placed next to that type of content and so they were going to do a shift of who the site was intended to be for. Towards the bottom of that Uproxx article is some of the reactions, making comparisons to the sinking of the Titanic and the Simpsons episode where alcohol-free “Duff Zero” was introduced and put the Duff brewery out of business in a half hour.
The amount of content that needs to be flagged is too big for humans to do, but it’s being pointed out that it’s having a much larger negative effect, just like when LiveJournal’s 2007 efforts to make changes affected more legitimate uses of adult material/conversations, such as those for rape survival groups.
Leaving “who it’s intended for” as it is can have benefits. Hasbro didn’t say, “You’re men. You can’t watch our cartoon about talking horses that we made for young girls.”
Is Tumblr about to become the next LiveJournal or Myspace, where users will start leaving en mass and the companies start getting sold time after time, as the new owners try to figure out what to do with something that looked promising enough to be worth buying, only to have to sell it later at a loss? Stay tuned.