Tumblr is, once again, baring it all. The platform is letting nudity (with some key exceptions) back on the feed. Community guidelines updated on Tuesday read that “Nudity and other kinds of adult material are generally welcome. We’re not here to judge your art, we just ask that you add a Community Label to your mature content so that people can choose to filter it out of their Dashboard if they prefer.”
However, “sexually explicit material” remains restricted. Specifically, “visual depictions of sexually explicit acts (or content with an overt focus on genitalia) are not allowed on Tumblr,” the new guideline says. In other words: no porn.
Initially, way back when Tumblr was founded in 2007, the platform allowed all manner of posts. “Go nuts, show nuts,” was the actual written policy. The site functioned as a hub for artists, fandoms, and yes, also sex workers.
But in 2018, following a series of corporate acquisitions and devaluation, the company enacted a sweeping ban on “adult content.” This applied to porn, but also “photos, videos, or GIFs that show real-life human genitals or female-presenting nipples, and any content—including photos, videos, GIFs and illustrations—that depicts sex acts,” according to screenshots of the policy.
Though there was, in theory, an exception for “nudity found in art.” The algorithm tasked with parsing out artistic from sexual expression did a predictably terrible job. Creatives on the site (and yes, also sex workers) became casualties of the change. Many fled Tumblr for Twitter or other platforms, where the rules were lax-er.
In 2019, Tumblr was bought by Automattic Inc., Wordpress.com’s parent company, for just $3 million. And in September of this year, Automattic’s CEO Matt Mullenweg hinted that changes could be coming to the no nudity guidelines in a Tumblr post. “The Tumblr and Automattic teams are working to make [the policy] more open and common-sense,” he wrote.
The newly adjusted community guidelines seem to make good on that promise. But they don’t return Tumblr to its fan art erotica heyday, nor are the site’s guidelines likely to re-allow porn in the future.
In the same September post, Mullenweg wrote that, though he personally agrees with the “go nuts, show nuts” policy of yore,“the casually porn-friendly era of the early internet is currently impossible.” He listed reasons that include financial institution bans on pornography, iOS App store restrictions, and difficulties verifying age and consent.