Tumblr is at war with Apple over “mature” content on its app again

Hide your “Tony the Tiger” / “Eugene Levy” fanfiction – these phrases, along with hundreds of others, are now banned from Tumblr’s iOS app.

Now, any personal blog that marks itself as “mature” is not available on the iOS app – users will see a pop-up explaining that the content has been hidden due to “potentially suggestive or explicit content.” Tumblr also said that certain posts will be hidden in the search function and on the user’s dashboards – which show recommended posts, as well as content from the users they follow.

“In order for us to remain in the Apple App Store and for our Tumblr iOS app to be available, we needed to make changes that would help us be more compliant with their sensitive content policies,” Tumblr wrote in a blog post.

Image credit: Tumblr

Tumblr users developed an unofficial crowdsourced list of tags that the Tumblr app has banned on iOS to comply with these policies. Some of the banned tags make sense for a platform that tries to scrub itself for sensitive content – “porn”, “drugs” and “sex” are banned, for example. Others are incomprehensible (or worrying if you think about them for too long), like the aforementioned “Tony the Tiger” and “Eugene Levy.” Even tags with the numbers 69 and 420 are prohibited.

Many Tumblr users flock to the site to talk anonymously about their experiences, but some of these tag bans effectively censor these conversations. Several tags related to stimulation, a common coping practice for autistic people, are prohibited, along with tags such as “depression”, “PTSD” and “bipolar.”

“We understand that these adjustments will affect how users are able to access potentially sensitive content while using our iOS app, and that can be frustrating,” a Tumblr spokesman told TechCrunch. “We are working on more thoughtful solutions, which will be rolled out in the near future, and we will keep the community updated as that work continues.”

A former Tumblr iOS engineer who blogs at the site as sreegs explained what could be causing this problem and its ineffective, bandaid-like solutions.

“If a reviewer [at Apple] running your app and finding porn, your app gets rejected and you are told to fix the problem, “they wrote in a blog post. The engineer said this would happen around” once every five updates “, but when it offends posts – – delivered to Tumblr via screenshot – were removed, the app would be good to go.

“Once in a while, Tumblr would get a really persistent reviewer. It would take a handful of porn scrubs and submissions before they would finally give the green light for an update,” sreegs wrote. The engineer thinks this is similar to what’s happening on Tumblr’s iOS app now.

Tumblr has faced a years-long battle with approval in the iOS App Store. In 2018, Tumblr’s iOS app was removed from the App Store, after material on child sexual abuse (CSAM) found its way through the app’s filtering technology. A month later, the platform responded by banning all porn and other sexually explicit content, resulting in an almost instantaneous drop of 29% monthly. Since then, the platform’s web traffic has been relatively stagnant.

Image credit: SimilarWeb

Of course, scrubbing a user-generated content platform of any adult content is a Sisyphean task. But Apple’s standards for Tumblr seem particularly stringent.

“A small part of me also wants to be cynical and say that since Instagram and Twitter are so big, they can get away with more than Tumblr can,” the former Tumblr theorized iOS engineer. “Combine that with Tumblr’s story of openly allowing porn until the end of 2018. Of course, I can not prove it, but if Tumblr has a reputation with Apple, it can not be a good thing.”

Meanwhile, Tumblr content is banned tag by tag, from #rule 34 to #long post.

Tumblr wrote on its Changes blog yesterday that it is reviewing the list of tags that cannot be accessed in the iOS app, and it expects this review process to pick up speed in January.

“We are working on a web-based switch that will allow people to choose to allow sensitive content in the iOS app,” it added.

Tumblr users often refer to the platform as a wasteland of the Internet. The app itself once subtitled its iOS app as “hellsite (loving)” in the App Store. So why do people keep using it?

“We’re busted enough that people assume the site is dead, so things like this have super easy solutions, “said a dedicated Tumblrite TechCrunch. It’s not hard to find these solutions if you search for” tag ban “on the site , but regular users know that the search function is still very buggy. “I bet the broken search feature actually gets stuck here. Shit just does not show up half the time, which means we can not find it, but Apple can not either.”

But what Tumblr lacks in working iOS apps and search features, it compensates for with its algorithm … or lack thereof. As platforms like TikTok, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and Instagram face the Senate to talk about the mysterious ways they serve content, Tumblr makes it work (define “work”) the old-fashioned way. It shows content from users you follow in reverse chronological order.

“I honestly believe that being a dumpster brand has fully worked to Tumblr’s advantage at this point, “said the avid Tumblr user.” WWe have no algorithm, so we can still put together our experience exactly the way we want. “

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