Tumblr needs to rethink its NSFW ban

The popular microblogging platform Tumblr faced a setback when Apple Inc. removed it from its app store in November due to child pornography found on the site. The website, which is owned by Verizon Wireless, announced to users that it would ban all porn and not-safe-for-work images, gifs and content by Dec. 17 in an attempt to purge the site of its unsavory elements.

While child porn is unquestionably terrible, and all sites should try to stamp it out, Tumblr’s ban on all pornographic content comes as a blow to many who used the site to explore their sexual identity and find belonging. Tumblr is known for its large community of users with marginalized identities, coming from LGBTQ and minority backgrounds especially. Child porn is not the norm for sex on Tumblr — sex education for LGBTQ people, erotic art and exploration of culture are.

With bots flagging posts for sexual content indiscriminately — the bots’ inability to distinguish sexual content from Mario the Nintendo character was the cause for a new meme — users are uncertain what will be left once Dec. 17 rolls around.

With posts being screened and blogs being deleted, it becomes a question of whether the small, insular Tumblr communities will be able to survive the upheaval, and whether their years of input into blogs will be destroyed.

Tumblr’s ban drags out numerous uncomfortable questions: Do things on the internet really live on forever? Has cyberspace, the final frontier, finally been conquered? And is that a good thing?

With social media leading to issues like child porn or an uptick in Nazism, it’s hard to argue that tech giants don’t have the obligation to set things right. However, these companies also have an obligation to not trample on the legitimate communities that use their platforms in the process.