Gears & Gadgets

Tumblr’s porn ban is going about as badly as expected

This image carefully avoids any "female-presenting nipples" which would otherwise land it on Tumblr's naughty list.
Enlarge / This image carefully avoids any "female-presenting nipples" which would otherwise land it on Tumblr’s naughty list.

In the run-up to its total ban on pornography, Tumblr is using “algorithms” to determine if current posts are pornographic at all.

For some reason, the blogging site hopes that people running porn blogs will continue to use the site after the December 17 ban but restrict their postings to the non-pornographic. As such, the company isn’t just banning or closing blogs that are currently used for porn; instead, it’s analyzing each image and marking those it deems to be pornographic as “explicit.” The display of explicit content will be suppressed, leaving behind a wasteland of effectively empty porn blogs.

This would be bad enough for Tumblr users if it were being done effectively, but naturally, it isn’t. No doubt using the wonderful power of machine learning—a thing companies often do to distance themselves from any responsibility for the actions taken by their algorithms—Tumblr is flagging non-adult content as adult content, and vice versa. Twitter is filling with complaints about the poor job the algorithm is doing.

There are even claims that reblogs of the post announcing the ban on adult content has itself been flagged.

LGBT users of YouTube found themselves penalized and demonetized, as algorithms fail to distinguish between pornography on the one hand and discussion of sexuality on the other. Some Tumblr users are suspicious that LGBT-oriented content is similarly being unfairly targeted.

Even a picture of Washington Capitals wing Alex Ovechkin sleeping with the Stanley Cup was flagged. Tumblr is likely to become bereft of users in addition to porn if it can’t get its act together.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Tech – Ars Technica