August 20, 2012 at 14:12 PM EDT
Is Tumblr Quietly Cracking Down On NSFW Porn? Two Deleted Sites Say Yes
At 69.4 million blogs and nearly 30 billion posts to date, the rush of growth at blogging site Tumblr has for years had a seedy undercurrent: the popular site is home to a long tail of raunchy, NSFW adult content. But now, a few signs are pointing to the company cracking down on it, with the sudden deletion of several popular porn blogs within a short space of time. We've pointed out before how Tumblr was actually okay with porn -- as long as you flagged it clearly and didn't add video -- but now a couple of porn publishers tell us that their sites have now been taken down, apparently without violating those rules.
not found on tumblr

At 69.4 million blogs and nearly 30 billion posts to date, the rush of growth at blogging site Tumblr has for years had a seedy undercurrent: the popular site is home to a long tail of raunchy, NSFW adult content. But now, a few signs are pointing to the company cracking down on it, with the sudden deletion of several popular porn blogs within a short space of time.

We’ve pointed out before how Tumblr was actually okay with porn — as long as you flagged it clearly and didn’t add video — but now a couple of porn publishers tell us that their sites have now been taken down, apparently without violating those rules.

Three of the blogs in question were ”Art Or Porn?“, “Booty Of The Day” and ”TeamPervert.com“, which one of the publishers estimates may have together been pulling in up to 5 million views per day taken together.

Art Or Porn now leads to a “not found” page; Booty Of The Day now redirects to a BOTD site on another server; and TeamPervert redirects to another tumbler post with a message about getting shut down.

“For all three blogs to be unceremoniously dumped within a short timespan raises suspicion to me,” says Mr E, the publisher of TeamPervert. (“Because of my career and the fear of losing my job, I’ve operated my blog under complete anonymity,” he told me.)

This is how he explains what happened with his Tumblr:

“When my site was deleted from Tumblr, I received an automated two-sentence email saying my account was deactivated for ‘spam or affiliate marketing’, which was false. I ran standard ads units on the blog, I had no pop-ups, no predatory ads, no viruses, no creepy affiliate programs. The ads on my blog were no different than the ads on thousands of other Tumblr-hosted blogs today.”

We also contacted Booty of the Day’s publisher, David Ra, and he told us a similar story, adding that in fact Tumblr deleted in total four of his porn blogs within the space of two days in July. When he emailed to ask what happened,

“[Tumblr's] automated response said the reason for the termination was due to spamming and/or affiliate marketing. I’ve never spammed in my life. I have done something that was probably akin to affiliate marketing for [other] porn sites.”

He says he may have been involved in adding some affiliate links, but that this was not the point of his site. His description of what he did do is strikingly similar to what non-porn people do with Tumblr, and on that level it’s a bit gutting to hear about the work disappearing:

“I think Tumblr’s TOS said some affiliate marketing was okay as long as it wasn’t the main purpose of your blog. The thing I was doing was, sometimes when those sites released a new porn video, I would make a gif out of it, and then post it along with a link for people to go see the preview clip. The link would have my referral ID just in case somebody signed up on those sites, I would make a few dollars in the process. I found out that it was probably because of those links to porn sites that they terminated me, or at least that was the excuse they were using. If I ever tried to fight it (which I won’t, since it would probably be fruitless), my excuse would be that it was content I was creating from their videos, and the links were technically links to the source of that content, which it was proper to credit them with.”

Art or Porn — or at least who we think might be the administrator of the site — has not responded to a request for comment.

Ra says that he didn’t challenge the closure also because he had been planning to build a “real site” for some time. What irked him the most was the fact that Tumblr did not give back his content:

“I didn’t get a chance to do a site transfer and move everything before the shut down, so I had to just about start all over, after almost two years of creating content. I was putting in work into almost every last post I made, not just reblogging or posting stuff that I found,” he said. “I had some stuff backed up, but the good stuff (not sure if you ever saw any of the sets of 6 – 8 gifs on the site) that took me the longest to create, was lost.”

Unlike Ra who simply moved on, Mr E says he made repeated attempts to contact Tumblr to clear up the issue, asking specifically what he’d done wrong and what could be done to change it, including removing the ads that he ran on the site.

“But they didn’t respond to me whatsoever,” he says. “I would have permanently removed every ad unit on my blog if it saved me from a banning, but like I’ve said, I doubt ads were the real reason for this happening…I’m not angry, but I’m really disappointed that two and a half years of work could just be deleted without the courtesy of a real explanation.”

Irrespective of what you think of porn, these stories raise some questions. Has Tumblr quietly changed its policy on porn, and why now? Is it cracking down on any use of affiliate marketing, and if so are other more kosher blogs at risk, too? And could it ever decide to turn on other categories of blogs, and should anyone be worried?

One thing that seems clear to me is that Tumblr has grown massively in the last couple of years. Taking the top 15 or so subdomains on Tumblr today and comparing them with the top 15 from three years ago, you can see how non-porn content has crowded out porn sites from the top rankings.

Then…


(via)

Now…

(Believe it or not, Undressed Skeleton is a happy clappy healthy living site.)

That seems to imply that reducing traffic from the porn sites by shutting them down isn’t going to have the same impact on Tumblr as it would have had in the past. And it might actually help raise the tone of it as it continues to grow and look for what it might do next.

We have reached out to Tumblr for a comment on this and will update as we learn more.



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