Apple removed the app for Tumblr, a social media and blogging website with over 400 million active blogs, from its app store on Nov. 16, with many pointing a finger at the presence of child pornography on the website. On Nov. 19, Tumblr released a statement indicating that certain content was missing from its database, which would have allowed the site to catch the illicit material.
In their statement, Tumblr representatives wrote, “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.” Mentioning their partnership with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the representatives continued, “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.”
Apple’s app guidelines state that “apps that solicit, promote, or encourage criminal or clearly reckless behavior will be rejected. In extreme cases, such as apps that are found to facilitate human trafficking and/or the exploitation of children, appropriate authorities will be notified.” Apple previously removed Telegram from its app store due to its use in the distribution of child pornography. It is unclear if legal action has been taken against Tumblr. Apple did not respond to a request for comment.
Tumblr experienced similar incidents in the past when its site was briefly banned in Indonesia for mature content. The government of South Korea asked the blog to do a better job moderating such content. Earlier this year, an associate professor at CUNY filed a suit alleging that Tumblr had been used as a site for posting revenge porn — an ex-boyfriend posted intimate images non-consensually online.
Statements from Tumblr over the first days after the app’s removal did not indicate that illicit material was involved. The site only released its Nov. 19 statement after an article appeared on CNET’s software-focused website, Download.com, stating the app’s removal was due to child pornography.
As of press time, the site has not returned to the app store, but those who have previously downloaded the app are still able to redownload it through their “Purchased” collection. Tumblr links to the app from its website, though clicking on the app link leads to an XML error page or a broken link in iTunes.
Some Tumblr users stated they had been complaining about child pornography and bots posting illicit materials. Others have been complaining that their blogs were erased, likely as part of Tumblr’s attempts to clean up its content. Tumblr has given no indication for when the app will return to Apple’s App Store, but the site’s language since Nov. 16 has been optimistic.
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