On Friday, niche blogging platform Tumblr became suddenly and inexplicably unavailable on Apple’s app store, and since then users posting adult-themed content have claimed their blogs are being deleted by the site without warning despite no official statement from either Tumblr, it’s parent company Oath, or Apple. The reason, as some had grimly suggested, was confirmed to be because of child pornography being hosted on the site.
The platform’s official help page claimed the team was “working to resolve an issue with the iOS app” for several days. This evening, those updates were accompanied by the following statement [emphasis ours]:
We’re committed to helping build a safe online environment for all users, and we have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to media featuring child sexual exploitation and abuse. As this is an industry-wide problem, we work collaboratively with our industry peers and partners like NCMEC to actively monitor content uploaded to the platform. Every image uploaded to Tumblr is scanned against an industry database of known child sexual abuse material, and images that are detected never reach the platform. A routine audit discovered content on our platform that had not yet been included in the industry database. We immediately removed this content. Content safeguards are a challenging aspect of operating scaled platforms. We’re continuously assessing further steps we can take to improve and there is no higher priority for our team.
The lack of transparency from either company, CNET notes, is likely a result of coordinating with law enforcement.
Tumblr’s phrasing suggests this may have been entirely new content originating on the platform—the scale of which, and number of users involved, is currently unknown. It’s also unclear whether Tumblr voluntarily pulled its iOS app or if Apple made that decision as a safeguard.
We’ve reached out to Tumblr, Oath, Apple, and NCMEC for comment and will update when we hear back.