Tumblr NSFW Content Purge

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This article documents a currently unfolding situation within the fannish realm. Content may change quickly, and the page structure itself may undergo major revision. New details are very welcome.


Event
Event: The Purge, Tumblr NSFW Content Purge, #tumblrpurge, Tumblr Strikethrough, Tumblrocalypse
Participants: Tumblr
Date(s): November 2018 -
Type:
Fandom: multifandom
URL:
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.
Similar Occurrences

For other incidents in which platforms used by fan communities have cracked down on fanworks, discussion by fans, and fansites with "inappropriate" content, see:

For a more general related topic, see List of Content Banned by Archives.

The Tumblr NSFW Content Purge refers to a late 2018 incident in which Tumblr's iOS app was removed from the App Store, and numerous blogs with NSFW content subsequently deleted, due to a reported issue with child pornography. Eventually a full ban on visual NSFW content was announced by Tumblr.

The incident took place not three months after The Snappening, another event in which Tumblr fan blogs were purged, this time for copyright-related reasons.

A #tumblrpurge graphic created by 8thiago7. Its caption on Tumblr reads, "Mourning. My heartfelt condolences to all who have lost their nsfw blog. Getting followers is hard work, not to mention the collection that many have probably missed. It was a cruel, dishonest, and utterly unjust act."

The Beginning: App Disappearance and Child Pornography Revelations

On November 16, 2018, Tumblr's iOS app suddenly vanished from the App Store, with no information available as to why it had disappeared. The app was initially unavailable to users with parental controls enabled, and then completely unavailable.[1] Tumblr initially stated only that it was "working to resolve an issue with the iOS app and hope[d] to be fully functional again soon."

However, apps website Download.com approached Tumblr with independent sources claiming that the app was removed "due to child pornography that got past the site's filters".[1] When confronted with this evidence, Tumblr made a public statement confirming that the issues were related to child pornography on its platform.[2]

Fan Blogs Are Affected

Around November 19, 2018, distraught fans began reporting on Twitter and Tumblr that their blogs had been deleted without warning. The affected blogs appeared to be primarily art blogs with NSFW content, although SFW blogs were also affected. Users on Twitter and Tumblr coined the hashtag #tumblrpurge to tag their accounts of blog removals and discuss the purge as well as blog retrieval strategies.

[@elleasf]

im so freaking raging in anger rn bcs @tumblr terminated my blog for no reason! i sent a ticket to support team and i hope they fix it and bring back my acct and also i seek a very gooooooood reason why did they tolerate it. tf w this. ridiculous! im so pissed off no kidding.[3]

[@nighttimechakai [4]]

What the hell, my tumblr account got deleted out of nowhere D: I never even got anon hate or had a post taken down! I've contacted support...

[@Lumi10103164]

Mine was deactivated too. It seems that Tumblr was removed from IOS App Store because too much porn so tumblr deactivated tons of nsfw blogs. Even sfw blogs has been deactivated. Take a look at #tumblrpurge

[cherry-flavour322]

WHAT THE FUCK?

Where is the porn? I tried looking it up on mobile and NOTHING came up? There isnt even that fucking lock at the end that enables safe mode. If this is how tumblr is going to be then fuck this. I like the fandom stuff and occasional drama but i was here for the porn to god damn it. Anyone know if this is to do with the app store thing? [5]

[@Mewshuji]

So apparently it's not even just effecting NSFW blogs or people with NSFW blogs... but people with purely and only SFW blogs.

Goddammit Tumblr get your fucking shit together. This is what you get for ignoring the porn bot problem for YEARS.[6]

[@Pup_Amp]

Just a heads up that @tumblr is deleting adult and NSFW blogs left and right. Please follow creators you enjoy from tumblr on their other platforms before it's too late.

How easily Tumblr is deleting a culture of sex-positive content and all it's taken is a single click.[7]

However, some were sceptical about how widespread the purge actually was (versus how much was rumour and hysteria). On November 20, copperbadge responded to an Ask on his Tumblr:

[anonymous]

Apple booted tumblr from the App Store and now tumblr is doing its best Thanos interpretation. May you and those dear to you survive.

[copperbadge]

Do we know how many people have actually had this happen to them? I’ve seen one firsthand account, and I’m sure there are more, but is this really a Thanos-snap situation? Granted I only follow 100 blogs but I haven’t had this happen to anyone I know, or presumably anyone they know. Of course, it’s still horrible for the people it has happened to or is happening to, but I think also the deletions are perhaps drawing attention away from several other aspects of this situation.

I thought this was funny because Tumblr got grounded by Dad when he caught him with all the porn. I couldn’t stop laughing at the mental image of Tumblr with a backwards cap and a popped collar walking into his bedroom to find Steve Jobs sitting on his bed with his box of Playboys. “Son, we need to talk.”

But here’s the thing: it’s not the porn bots. It’s child porn. And not what angry young tumblrs call child porn. Actual facts explicit photographic sexual images of exploited young children. Which isn’t funny at all. And while I genuinely am sorry for people who got their tumblrs deleted on accident, like….it appears nothing is permanent, and there’s a point at which I’m willing to accept the collateral damage that I might get temporarily deleted in return for no child porn on my social media network.[8]

Although the purge seemed to be affecting a minority of fan blogs, it was significant enough to be causing serious distress to the users affected, not least because of similarities to numerous past purges of "inappropriate" fannish content by platforms like LiveJournal (see Strikethrough and Boldthrough), Fanfiction.net (see FanFiction.net's NC-17 Purges), and Quizilla (see Regarding the Citrus Content for one such example).

[@Reina_Lovelace]

Also, I'm having PTSD (figuratively) moments with the #tumblrpurge. When TeenNick bought out Quizilla, they were starting to do something similar; either removing nsfw material or banning fanfic writers out right. Then that was it. The website got shut down. (2/3)[9]

[@b_writes]

Same thing happened in #strikethrough back in the LJ days. Lot of people got told they MUST have been doing something wrong. Though this era has more thoughtcrime behind it, not an improvement.[10]

Some fans were successful in contacting Tumblr staff to have their blogs restored,[11] but others either received no response or were outright refused. jaspurrlock, a fanartist posting NSFW art of characters from Voltron: Legendary Defender and Boku No Hero Academia, was one well-known example: upon contacting Tumblr support, she received a response from the Tumblr Trust & Safety Team claiming that her blog featured “inappropriate content involving or depicting minors” and handing out a “final” termination that banned her from the site.[12] jaspurrlock published the responses from Tumblr staff to her Twitter account (account tweets protected), which attracted a number of supportive tweets[13][14] along with a great deal of flaming, harassment and vitriol from users who believed the ban was deserved.[15][16][17]

Users began noting down details that the affected blogs had in common, in order to get a sense of what Tumblr would and would not permit on its platform (as Tumblr itself was not offering clarity on this issue). Some theorised that external links were an issue,[18] or that popular blogs were affected due to the porn bots that frequently reblogged them.[19] On November 21, freedom-of-fanfic posted a response to an Anonymous ask:

[anonymous]

I've seen several people who couldn't get their blogs back because they had nsfw of canonically underage characters, even if they're aged up. The email response is: As per the policies you agreed to when creating a tumblr account, we do not allow inappropriate content involving or depicting minors on tumblr. Creating new blogs or accounts with this same subject matter or content will result in immediate account termination. This termination is final, and replies to this message are not reviewed.

[freedom-of-fanfic]

‘several’? interesting. I know of one person with a blog of this description who was hit with this termination message (jaspurrlock), and I don’t know what steps they may have to try to get their blog back.

if tumblr is indeed purging blogs for explicit images of fictional minors, let’s try to get some information flowing here so we can piece together a rough idea of what kind of fictional content is no longer permitted by tumblr’s abuse staff. is it sexually explicit artwork of any character that could arguably be considered canonically under 18? Is it artwork where the characters have the (somewhat subjective) appearance of being ‘young’? are they deleting shota/loli artwork archives? or is it more or less random chance that any one artist will get their account terminated?

if you have more information, it would be great to get specifics about what kind of content was on the blogs that were specifically terminated for “inappropriate content involving or depicting minors on tumblr” and what steps have already been taken.

  • which blogs were terminated for this? are you certain they tried appealing and were denied?
  • about how many followers did the affected blogs have? did they have a significantly-sized hatedom of people who would mass-report their content?
  • was the content flagged as adult or no?
  • what was the canon age of the fictional minors being depicted?
  • was the art explicit (visible genitals)? were the characters drawn in ways specifically intended to invoke prepubescent bodies (i.e. no pubic hair, or lacking other signs of pubescence)?
  • was it realistic or cartoonish?
  • were any of the characters portrayed therein from a live action show where the characters are played by actors who are minors?
  • were any of the affected blogs posting written works rather than drawn artwork?

I know this is a lot of questions, but there’s a lot of things to wonder about if tumblr is moving this direction. and if tumblr won’t lay down lines about what’s allowed and what’s not, we have to guess at them.[20]

Intentional, or a Glitch?

Fans were divided over whether Tumblr's deletion of a number of innocent blogs - either those which posted NSFW art that didn't depict minors in any way, or those which posted exclusively SFW art - was intentional, the result of a heavy-handed approach to removing the real pornography from its platform, or a technical glitch.

[@rubyenraylls]
Apparently Tumblr is now purging all NSFW content in the great #tumblrpurge

First they removed the ability to search NSFW content on mobile, now all NSFW content must go (SFW content is getting caught up in it too.)

This is apparently due to some poor filtering. :( [21]

[@Leonidas1754]

I honestly don't think Tumblr is trying to get rid of nsfw content and are legit trying to get rid of CP and Bots. They're just doing a really fucking bad job and the lack of communication makes it 1000% worse. #tumblrpurge [22]

[@YukiPri_Art]
I've heard:
-NSFW purge to remove porn bots that cast its net too wide
-It's a glitch and accident
-It's users with links in their bios
-It's antis manipulating the chaos to report blogs with ships they don't like

They're all rumors, to my knowledge.

#TumblrPurge 2/ [23]
Graphic created by wolfskies25. The caption on Tumblr reads:
An idea that me and @becomehomeagain had about this whole Tumblr Porn Bot Purge scenario.
Iceberg hitting the Titanic = Porn bots invading Tumblr
Lifeboats carrying people away from the ship = Tumblr users being deleted
Person in the bottom corner just watching = The staff not giving a sh*t about the anger of their users
.. Pretty fitting, no?

However, most users agreed that the biggest issue wasn't with Tumblr's over-enthusiastic removals of blogs, but with the complete lack of any communication or updates on the unfolding situation. In particular, many people pointed out that if there had been a change in Tumblr's Terms of Service that meant previously-compliant blogs were now not in compliance, Tumblr was legally obliged to communicate this to its userbase.

[@noctidial]

I think the most frustrating thing about the #tumblrpurge is that @tumblr @Tumblrsupport REFUSE to give a statement on their site or Twitter about the innocent and compliant blogs that were terminated. Absolutely NO warning. If things changed, we LEGALLY need to know.[24]

[derahex]
Tumblr deleting blogs without making a "we changed our terms of service, you have X hours to match your blogs to those changes" is DeviantArt-tier

(If deviantart staff actually did anything ever, that is)[25]


Others pointed out that Tumblr's implementation was chaotic and lacked human review. For example, fan art that depicted robots having sex with tentacle monsters was deleted for bestiality, which led one fan to mourn that even Hollywood Oscar award winning movies were at risk:

"I guess this means The Shape of Water is a no-no as well? /stares mournfully at gifs of fishloving [26]

When the artist attempted to explain to Tumblr that the "characters" were cartoon dinosaur robots, they were told: ""This termination is final, and replies to this message will not be reviewed." [27]

Disabled users were also impacted. One fan wrote:

"I was looking for the Chronic Pain tag today and discovered it had been purged. which is probably why my og account was purged because like half my posts were tagged that way because of my fibromyalgia and RA. My friend thinks it was the drug deals in the tag which caused it to be targeted.[28]

Even text based blogs were deleted, undercutting the argument that Tumblr's primary focus was child porn images:

"[Radical Feminist Identification/RFID Blocking] ...is the first blog I’ve seen purged that contained literally nothing but text. No images, videos, audio. Nothing that could be construed as pornographic by even the broadest strokes. So, you know. Words are bad now, or whatever."[29]

Complicating matters was Tumblr's shadow ban of certain keyword searches that could have assisted in ascertaining the extent of the impact: searches for "tumblr purge" led to no results.[30] Other banned searches included "fandom wank" possibly due to one of the words also having sexual connotation in the UK. The list of search terms blanked included: ""breast cancer," "safe sex" and "chronic pain".[31]

Perhaps one fan summed it up best:

"Tumblr dies the way it lived: completely fucking ridiculous.[32]

Migration to Other Platforms

A number of users made the decision to move away from Tumblr as a result of the purge, or to point their followers towards their presence on other sites in case they fell afoul of the purge.

Twitter was the most popular choice as a site with a permissive stance towards adult material, and one where most people already had accounts. Some other fans, particularly those with experience of journal communities such as LiveJournal and Dreamwidth, advocated migrating to Dreamwidth as a long-standing, fandom-friendly alternative to Tumblr. (This was also not the first time that a migration from Tumblr to Dreamwidth had been suggested).

However, the idea of a move to Dreamwidth was less popular among fans whose primary experience of fandom was through Tumblr (which has a very different set of features and fannish behaviours), and among artists, as Dreamwidth's support for image hosting was less than robust. A popular alternative was Pillowfort, a fan-friendly crowdfunded blogging platform whose interface fused elements of Tumblr and LiveJournal.

Pillowfort capitalised on this interest with a November 20 tweet referencing Tumblr's "shenanigans":

[@Pillowfort_io]
In light of recent Tumblr shenanigans, now seems like a good time to remind everyone that http://Pillowfort.io is a new social media platform that aims to give users better content control & communications tools!

More info & how to register: https://www.pillowfort.io/FrequentlyAskedQs [33]

However, shortly afterwards, Pillowfort discovered a security weakness which prompted the site to go offline for maintenance for several days, hobbling the ability of fans to migrate to its community.[34] Fans also expressed doubts about Pillowfort as an alternative to Tumblr based on its unclear Terms of Service surrounding content moderation, lack of GDPR compliance, use of PayPal, and the fact that its .io domain precluded it from hosting adult or sexual content.[35][36][37]

On the same day that Tumblr announced its permanent ban of all adult content, the Dreamwidth admin team published a news post entitled 'Welcome to Dreamwidth, Tumblr folks!' aimed at reassuring incoming Tumblr users that Dreamwidth permitted adult content, was 100% user-focused with no advertiser interests, and was working on improving many of the site's weaknesses such as the website experience on mobile.[38] Tumblr user saixnipples created a Dreamwidth community called the-great-tumblr-purge for "Tumblr refugees" to connect to one another. Some other fans created Dreamwidth tutorials aimed at familiarising Tumblr users with the site.

As suggestions for websites to migrate to proliferated, some fans began rounding up lists of options. One such list by curantodraws, a 'quick guide to the Tumblr NSFW apocalypse', suggested Pillowfort, Twitter, Mastodon, Newgrounds and Hentaifoundry, a website for posting adult art.[39] Piczel.tv, a streaming and image hosting website, published a Tumblr post "offer[ing] up our services as an alternative to Tumblr’s arbitrary shadowbans, deletions, and general stupidity" and announcing that its gallery upload size restriction had been removed, effective immediately.[40] Many fans also flocked to individual fandom Discord servers.[41][42]

Assistance with Archiving

A group calling itself the Archive Team started an initiative to help archive Tumblr's endangered blogs in the wake of the purge. On December 4, 2018, a day after the official ban on adult content, a Tumblr blog called 17decemberarchive published a post entitled Save endangered tumblrs before 17. December, which read:

Hello Tumblr users,

we are the Archive Team, the Archive Team is a loose collective of rogue archivists, programmers, writers and loudmouths dedicated to saving our digital heritage. Since 2009 this variant force of nature has caught wind of shutdowns, shutoffs, mergers, and plain old deletions - and done our best to save the history before it’s lost forever. We already worked on other Yahoo related projects like GeoCities and Flickr.

You can learn more about us under https://archiveteam.org/.

We plan to save many as many of the endangered blogs as possible. To do that we take multiple approaches.

  1. We use or scan of Tumblr we did in April 2018
  2. Some guys are working on an AI solution to detect endangered pictures
  3. We look for tags manually

But just us looking is not enough. You know Tumblr better than us.

Submit your favorite endangered Tumblrs here. That way we can be sure not miss them and put them in front of our queue.

The team also created a hashtag for the archiving effort, #tumbledown.[43] On December 7, the team announced that it had reached 500 submissions of endangered blogs.[44]

A group of Redditors led by itdnhr also set out to archive any NSFW blogs that had been submitted to Reddit and were still live. itdnhr compiled an initial list of 67,000 blogs that had been submitted over the past 7 years, of which 43,000 were found to still be online.[45]

On December 15, 2018, Jason Scott - founder of the Archive Team - tweeted that the team's efforts to archive blogs were being blocked by Tumblr staff:

[@textfiles]
GOOD MORNING INTERNET

This morning, Tumblr mass IP-banned entire swaths of @archiveteam volunteers and warrior instances. Some of our folks will do some work to see if they can get a little more out, but Tumblr has spoken: Get the hell off our lawn, we got some deletin' to do.[46]

Other users running their own archiving efforts also tweeted to report that they had been blocked or banned by Tumblr.[47][48]

Rumours of Tumblr Shutdown

As word spread about Tumblr's app disappearing from the App Store, rumours began to circulate that the site might be on the verge of shutting down. Some noticed that Tumblr staff appeared to have stopped responding for requests to restore purged blogs, and wondered if there might be a link.

[nonbinary-newsies-nerd]
Social Media

So,I’m really confused on if Tumblr has already shut down(it won’t even show up on the App Store) or if it’s going to, but incase, my cosplay Instagram is Calistar_Cosplay.[49]

[@gatobob3]

I've heard rumours of #tumblr shutting down entirely. Nothing confirmed. One thing I've noticed is that blog revival appears to have stopped. Only on the first day or so were people getting blogs back. #tumblrpurge[50]

[@gatobob3]

My personal theory is that legal battles and chaos have caused the company outlook to drop. Will they invest in paying employees to clean up the mess- or cut their losses and run? The second option sounds more likely to me. #tumblrpurge[51]

Tracking The Fallen and The Missing

Blogs

Tags

Sexual Tags

  • rimming
  • safe sex

Fandom Tags

Other Tags

  • Chronic pain
  • tumblr purge
  • breast cancer
  • sexual attraction

Adult Content Banned

On December 3, 2018, Tumblr announced that a full NSFW ban would go into effect on December 17, banning "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." Staff specified that users could still freely post "exposed female-presenting nipples in connection with breastfeeding, birth or after-birth moments, and health-related situations, such as post-mastectomy or gender confirmation surgery", as well as "Written content such as erotica, nudity related to political or newsworthy speech, and nudity found in art, such as sculptures and illustrations".[55]

Prior to December 2018, Tumblr's official stance on the posting of "adult content" was:

Is NSFW content allowed on Tumblr?

Sure. We have no problem with that kind of stuff. Go nuts. Show nuts. Whatever. [56]

In December, this changed:

Is adult content allowed on Tumblr?

Starting Dec 17, adult content will not be allowed on Tumblr, regardless of how old you are. You can read more about what kinds of content are not allowed on Tumblr in our Community Guidelines. If you spot a post that you don’t think belongs on Tumblr, period, you can report it: From the dashboard or in search results, tap or click the share menu (paper airplane) at the bottom of the post, and hit "Report." [57]

Tumblr CEO Jeff D’Onofrio authored a post on the staff blog regarding the December 2018 policy change, titling it "A better, more positive Tumblr":

Over the past several months, and inspired by our storied past, we’ve given serious thought to who we want to be to our community moving forward and have been hard at work laying the foundation for a better Tumblr. We’ve realized that in order to continue to fulfill our promise and place in culture, especially as it evolves, we must change. Some of that change began with fostering more constructive dialogue among our community members. Today, we’re taking another step by no longer allowing adult content, including explicit sexual content and nudity (with some exceptions).
[...]
It is our continued, humble aspiration that Tumblr be a safe place for creative expression, self-discovery, and a deep sense of community. As Tumblr continues to grow and evolve, and our understanding of our impact on our world becomes clearer, we have a responsibility to consider that impact across different age groups, demographics, cultures, and mindsets. We spent considerable time weighing the pros and cons of expression in the community that includes adult content. In doing so, it became clear that without this content we have the opportunity to create a place where more people feel comfortable expressing themselves.
Bottom line: There are no shortage of sites on the internet that feature adult content. We will leave it to them and focus our efforts on creating the most welcoming environment possible for our community. [58]

Detailed guidelines linked to "A better, more positive Tumblr": Updates to Tumblr’s Community Guidelines; archive link (December 3).

D’Onofrio expressed that this new policy did not have anything to do with the issue of child pornography, but many users were doubtful of that.

[navolot]
Fuck off @staff you lazy cucks, instead of dealing with the fucking bots and cp you just take the easy way out and nuke everyone. I hope this site crashes and burns, its a piece of glitchy shit and i hope you enjoy daddy Yahoo’s cash cock. [59]

[a-l-o-n-e-t-o-g-e-t-h-e-r]
“Let’s not put in the time to ACTUALLY properly target bots, pedophilia, and hate speech and instead remove a huge portion of our positive community, leaving artists without a platform to sell their work and a way for people to sexually express themselves in a positive way. Enjoy Hell, everyone!

"Sincerely, Bitch-Ass CEO”[60]

Deanna Echanique, a Tumblr user and professional romance/erotica artist, wrote this in response to D’Onofrio's post:

Wow. I’ve been a Tumblr member for nearly a decade. I’ve grown an audience, a following, made friends, and found a home in my fandom.

I’m an erotic artist and I will be purged.

You say there is a ton of places on the internet for adult content, but that’s a lie. Left and right we are being removed, or shunted to unsearchable voids like you do here (and patreon does). The people who grew your platform are just a stepping stone to be discarded once you think it’s too hard to police your platform against illegal content. Instead of hiring moderators to remove child porn, you’ll throw us all in the garbage. Forget that sexuality and erotica is a form of expression, an exploration of fantasy in a safe way (via art).

I’m glad, at least, I’ll have a few days after my vacation to pull my content, so I don’t lose almost a decade of my work.

You know, erotica is my livelihood, my succor, what keeps me creatively alive and also keeps me financially secure. I always knew if something went wrong with my day job, I can always take commissions. I can plug my existing content and make some money to fill the gap with my audience here. I sold more copies of Clutch (my harpy friends to lovers story) this week thanks to a popular blog boost than I have in months.

But fuck us, huh? Fuck sexual expression. Fuck erotic creativity. Fuck the people who made your platform big and the community you’ve built.

Erotica has always been disposable, the first to go in these Puritan purges in the name of ‘save the children’. Tale as old as time.

I’m not sure where I’ll go from here. I’m almost 35 years old and I have to build my audience from the ground up.

Again.[61]

Another artist, Luke/Takoto responded thus:

I don’t give a heck about posting n/s/f/w content but there are so many problems with this whole debacle

  • The wording of “female-presenting nipples” - which is thinly veiled sexism and you know the “presenting” part will be ignored, so transmasc people who have breasts will be given the boot, as well as enby and intersex folks who have “feminine breasts”.
  • The fact this is just because staff can’t be bothered to manually moderate the site so they’re just like “lol let’s just ban it all!” - they haven’t been for months, maybe years. I regularly reported illegal nsfw content that was never removed.
  • The fact there are still nazis and white supremacists running around openly on here but nah that’s fine, lads. Can’t have nipples but fascists and nazis are a-okay [sarcasm].
  • The fact that tons of artists who use the website and happen to draw primarily nude characters might be affected by this - like tumblr staff says they won’t but I really don’t believe that.
  • The sheer fact alone that tumblr staff didn’t do anything about rampant pedos (”maps”) and CP, bestiality and zoophilia, etc. despite knowing it was on here, until they were removed from the Apple store.
  • The evidence that tumblr staff never gave a hoot about protecting under 18 year olds on the site, and are only doing this to save face now that things have gone extremely wrong.

Tumblr could have been such a good website but it’s been ruined by incompetent, lazy staff. I’ve been using tumblr for like nine, ten years now and it’s just, been utter incompetence at every turn.

Once a stable alternative pops up (probably pillowfort, if they can get the infrastructure) I’m outta here. [62]

On December 4, 2018, greywash posted "State of the Migration: On fannish archival catastrophes, and what happens next" on Dreamwidth, with developing conversations in comments:

First: let me start off by saying that it is very probable that Tumblr will back out of this particular bad idea. They often do. The pattern of fannish archival catastrophes at the hand of corporations almost always has five stages: 1) a sale, or rumored sale, of the platform; 2) falling or nonexistent profits; 3) pressure from (pick at least one) governments, morality warriors, and/or advertisers/other corporate interests; 4) the actual fannish archival catastrophe, caused by a change in the TOS or in the enforcement of the TOS, which itself frequently comes in multiple stages; and 5) a second sale of the platform.

Strikethrough, for example, wasn't a single terrible idea executed badly, it was at least two terrible ideas executed badly: first Strikethrough, which happened in May 2007; and then, following masses of outrage (particularly outrage from fans), some limited concessions from LJ management; followed by a second round of permanent suspensions conducted a little bit differently, a.k.a. Boldthrough, in August 2007. These tend to get lumped together in fannish memory, but I want people to remember that they were not a single event.

And those two events, themselves, are also not the whole story: Strikethrough itself followed on well over a year of rumors that LJ was changing its TOS/enforcement of its TOS, ever since LJ had been sold to SixApart in 2005, who were trying to monetize the site. [...]

So, in short, here is what happened to LJ: 1) LJ was sold to SixApart; 2) SixApart tried to monetize it; 3) SixApart got pressure from a) the Russian government, b) the Christian anti-porn police, and c) advertisers to bring its "adult content problem" under control; 4) LJ deleted a whole bunch of blogs, backed up and said "mea culpa", and then... deleted a whole bunch of blogs; and 5) SixApart sold LJ to the Russians.

[...]

Following this pattern, here is what I suspect is going to happen to Tumblr: 1) Tumblr was sold to Yahoo (now owned by Verizon); 2) Yahoo/Verizon tried to monetize it; 3) Yahoo/Verizon got pressure from a) various governments, including Indonesia and China, b) the anti-porn/anti-sex-work/anti-shipping moral purity police, and c) [ETA for advertisers link] advertisers/the Apple Store to bring its "adult content problem" under control; 4) starting earlier this year, Tumblr deleted a whole bunch of blogs, backed up and said "mea culpa", and then... changed its TOS and started deleting content [← we're here right now]; and 5) Verizon will sell Tumblr to ? ? ?

[...]

My point, here, is just that we have been here before. Exactly here. We have done this before, exactly this. Tumblr may take a while to bleed out, and they may try to triage it, but the writing is, in fact, on the wall: Tumblr will throw us off whatever cliffs they need to to try and eke out a profit for the morons in Verizon's boardroom; and in the end, our data's going to get deleted, or it's going to get sold, because that is just how these things go.

So we need to figure out where we go next.

NSFW ban memes

In response to the impending NSFW ban, many users made reference to the "horny people have no rights" meme. A new meme also emerged due to the unusual language of "female-presenting nipples" used in Tumblr's helpdesk article:

Dark Tumblr, show me the forbidden female presenting nipple[63]
But sir, that’s my emotional support female presenting nipple[64]

Another meme was screenshots of the red "This reblog was flagged" warning label, which often appeared on totally non-explicit image posts.[65]

A Network Of Our Own

As Tumblr's initial purge of NSFW blogs (prior to the adult content ban being officially announced) gathered steam, some fans raised the need for an "AO3 for communities",[66][67] referencing the way that Archive of Our Own was set up to provide a safe, maximally inclusive space for fanworks and allow fans to own the servers, on the heels of incidents like FanLib and Strikethrough and Boldthrough. For more on this, see: An Archive Of One's Own (post by astolat).

Fail Fandom Anon Discussion

On November 25, 2018, a user on Fail Fandom Anon started a discussion around building a "Network Of Our Own" specifically for fandom, which would be set up as a US-based non-profit, again in the vein of the Organization for Transformative Works. They shared a test/proof of concept site they had built and invited other users to play around with it and offer feedback:

I am not a programmer, but I've been playing around making a fandom social network app for a while, and with all the tumblr nonsense I've been thinking about it again. I'm not affiliated with the fandom social network people who've posted on meme before or any other current site.

A couple of things that have kept me from going forward with making this a real thing:
- I am not a sysadmin, so I don't have the first idea how to set up a server long term. Where this is hosted right now is not a long-term solution. I'm not in any way a BNF, so I don't know how to go about getting people involved who do know about server setup, security, GDPR compliance, or optimization if the userbase got large.
- If I were involved in setting this up as a long-term thing, I would want to set it up as a US-based nonprofit (I'm in the US and I have experience with fairly large non-profits). However, I don't know what kind of advocacy or education mission a US 501c3 could have that would be compatible with running a social network in the same way that OTW's preservation and advocacy mission is compatible with running AO3.
- Meme has discussed this before, but payment processing and image hosting seems to be a major holdup for this kind of project. I don't know how to go about finding a lawyer who could write up TOS to navigate the underage art/fic issue or how to do image hosting of material that a host might take issue with without owning servers. AWS and Heroku both have TOS against "excessively profane content." I put "no photos of genitals" in the play TOS on the thought that it would prohibit pornbots but allow fandom nsfw material, but that would need to be policed and doesn't get around the issue of server space TOS.

So I hope this isn't too much like farming meme for ideas, but I would be interested if nonnies wanted to talk about concrete steps for getting a fandom-made nonprofit social network off the ground. I've tried to make the frontend something I would enjoy using, but the other infrastructure pieces are the hard part.[68]

Other anons weighed in with feedback on the features and support for the idea, as well as suggestions for launching the network as a sustainable, long-term project.

I don't know what I can say about the back end or the nonprofit, but I've got plenty of experience in community building. I love the format and layout of what you've got so far, too.

When my archive had to move, I kind of 'hired' an engineer -- he'd run another one before mine took off -- and we became co-owners. He bought a server slice at first, then an actual server itself, though the archive's only a piece of what is on that. You could start with that as an option, or buying a virtual server.

The rest here is just my opinion:

As to the community building-- honestly, as long as you can keep its uptime decent and advertise it here on meme, or by word of mouth to start, I think you'll get people. Fandom's a lot more forgiving of small operators than Verizon. You'll get the people who are sick of antis and strikethrough 2.0, and you'll get the people who want a protected fandom space. I'd actually recommend making it 18+ from the outset, too. I'd make sure you had actual, active volunteer or maybe someday paid moderators that you trust to handle disputes, harassment, etc. (and ban antis or actual bad actors.) Community owners can mod their own stuff, but global, active mods would go over well. I'd talk to OTW and DW staff, as well. If anyone can guide you on the nonprofit part, they could. And if this is a fandom project, OTW's lawyers might be willing to help with the legalese, too.

I'd lay down clear rules about harassment, call-outs, what's allowed and what the overall philosophy is.

This is all, luckily, really scaling friendly! By starting it with a handful of trusted people, and building it by word of mouth and kind of almost 'you gotta be vouched for by someone else' thing to start, you can control the kind of atmosphere that develops. And hell, I like the format enough that I'd be glad to donate to the cause. Even if it failed, I'd consider the venture worth the capital and the money well spent on the attempt.[69]

Similar to you, I'm not really much of a coder but I tinker, and I have fantasies of some kind of tumblr-like blogging platform. And as I think has been pointed out, hosting images and gifs (let alone video!) as tumblr does is essentially impossible on a fandom nonprofit budget. And while it's easy to think, "Okay, a few discreet ads wouldn't be TOO annoying" the downfall of fandom platforms is usually conflict between advertisers and fans, because fans want to make content advertisers don't like being associated with.

[...]

And it's very...if you're not the customer, you're the product, and fandom isn't a very good product, and it would be sort of worrying if we were. If it isn't the socially unacceptable porn, it's the copyright violation! Even tumblr, with more money than I'd guess you have for this venture, had frequent downtime in its early years. And AO3 does well for itself on donations, but even it couldn't afford tumblr-style image hosting. The money just isn't going to scale, and I hate it. It's possible that will change as tech gets ever-more powerful, but right now?[70]

OTW Official Statement

On December 4 2018, the day after Tumblr announced its ban on adult content, the Organization for Transformative Works' Tumblr posted an official statement in response to the many calls for the OTW to develop a social network:

[transformativeworks]
Hi, folks! We’ve been getting a lot of messages like this lately, so here’s the word.

Like you, we’re concerned about changes to Tumblr’s Terms of Service and how they will impact fandom. However, we also need to consider our ability to build and support new services, given that the OTW is an entirely volunteer-run, donation-supported organization.

There are no plans for the OTW to offer a social media site or forum. It would take a lot of resources that we don’t have, in terms of both the work and the hardware that would be required. And even if we had all the money and personnel we could want, it’s impossible to build a home for all online fannish activity on a single site, so some of fandom would be left out no matter what.[71]

The post continued with some advice on how to preserve and archive endangered Tumblr blogs.

However, some fans remained dissatisfied with the OTW's response, believing that it had a unique responsibility to use its position in fandom to galvanise fans into creating a Tumblr alternative.

[rivertalesien]
It absolutely would be much too large at this point, but there really isn’t a better organization who could inspire a large group of people right now to think about the future: to think about what it would take, about numbers, volunteers, strategy, etc. Setting it close to OTW and AO3 it would be something of a natural outgrowth.

What OTW could inspire in others is important and the advice they could provide invaluable. Imagine if this organization told everyone who follows them to imagine the possibility. Imagine working with other groups, individuals who could take it further. It won’t happen right away. It may take a few years. But it has to start somewhere.

I’m here to spread positivity about the idea. I really hope there’s a group of people out there who can get together and pool their expertise into the next level of what OTW started.[72]

Fandom Platform of the Future Discussion

On December 5, a user named pearwaldorf tweeted, initially jokingly, about reaching out to Pinboard to develop a new space:

If @Pinboard were not actively trying to save the American republic I would beg him to help us figure out how to launch a fandom friendly platform that is inclusive of not just text, but visual and multimedia too[73]

Pinboard developer Maciej Cegłowski reached out to pearwaldorf, who created an editable Google Doc in which fans collaboratively wrote a 131-page document "Fandom Platform of the Future✨: Requirements Gathering and Features Discussion."[74]

Later that same day, Greywash's post "State of the Migration: On fannish archival catastrophes, and what happens next" spun off into a Dreamwidth community, post-tumblr-fandom discussing building a fannish alternative.

Naming the Purge

There have been many proposed names, partly because nobody could settle on one, and partly because tumblr kept hiding posts using various anti-tumblr tags. Some proposed names/tags include:

tumblrpocalypse, tumbldown, strikethrough 2.0, tumblr purge, tumblrpurge, tumblragnarok

Further Reading

Articles

Tutorials for Leaving Tumblr

Making back ups & moving elsewhere

Dreamwidth tutorials

Reactions & Discussion

Meta

Welcome posts from other sites

Twitter

Dreamwidth

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 "The reason Tumblr vanished from the App Store: Child pornography that slipped through the filters", Download.com. Published November 20, 2018 (Accessed November 21, 2018).
  2. November 16, 2018: Issues with the iOS app, Tumblr. Accessed November 21, 2018.
  3. Tweet by elleasf, November 19, 2018.
  4. Tweet by @nighttimechakai, November 19, 2018
  5. post by Cherry_flavour322 to Tumblr on 21 November 2018. (Accessed 5 December 2018.)
  6. Tweet by Mewshuji, November 19, 2018.
  7. Tweet by Pup_Amp, November 19, 2018.
  8. Post by copperbadge, Tumblr, November 20, 2018. Accessed November 21, 2018.
  9. Tweet by @Reina_Lovelace, November 19, 2018.
  10. Tweet by @b_writes, November 24, 2018.
  11. Tweet by @The_Shonosha, November 20, 2018 (Accessed November 24, 2018).
  12. NSFW artists speak out as their accounts are suddenly ‘purged’ on Tumblr, The Daily Dot. Published November 20, 2018 (Accessed November 24, 2018).
  13. Tweet by @bakukatty, November 20, 2018.
  14. Tweet by @thatotakutho, November 19, 2018.
  15. Tweet by @hambubungus, November 21, 2018.
  16. Tweet by @salemgriffin, November 21, 2018.
  17. Tweet by @fribbin, November 20, 2018.
  18. okay so by dadbyul, Tumblr. Published November 19, 2018 (Accessed November 24, 2018).
  19. For those unaware because staff isn’t saying it, Tumblr. Published November 19, 2018 (Accessed November 25, 2018).
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  21. Tweet by @rubyenraylls, November 20, 2018.
  22. Tweet by @Leonidas1754, November 22, 2018.
  23. Tweet by @YukiPri_Art, November 22, 2018.
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  26. Re: I bless the wank down in tumblr thread (accessed Nov 25. 2018)
  27. Re: I bless the wank down in tumblr thread (accessed Nov 25. 2018)
  28. So just a heads up it looks like tumblr purged a... - Fandom is my Fandom, Archived version
  29. RFID Blocking was focused on identifying tumblr users who participate in anti-transgender activity. Their archived FAQ can be found : https://archive.is/3IEm2 [1], Archived version
  30. Post by freedom-of-fanfic, Tumblr, Published November 25, 2018, Archived version
  31. List of banned searches/tags on Tumblr - Fandom is my Fandom, Archived version
  32. Re: I bless the wank down in tumblr thread (accessed Nov 25. 2018)
  33. Tweet by @Pillowfort_io, November 20, 2018.
  34. Posted by freedom-of-fanfic, Tumblr. Published November 23, 2018 (Accessed November 24, 2018).
  35. Tweet by @lizbarr, posted December 3, 2018
  36. Tweet by @lizbarr, posted December 4, 2018
  37. NIC.IO Domain Registration Rules: "No .IO domain may be used, directly or indirectly, for any purpose that is sexual or pornographic or that is against the statutory laws of any Nation. In the event of the Registry being advised by any party that a specific site breaches this condition then the Registry reserves the right to immediately deactivate the offending registration."
  38. Welcome to Dreamwidth, Tumblr folks!, dw_news, Dreamwidth. Published December 3, 2018 (Accessed December 4, 2018).
  39. Quick guide to the Tumblr NSFW apocalypse, curantodraws via Tumblr. Posted December 3, 2018 (Accessed December 4, 2018).
  40. We at Piczel.tv are sad to see Tumblr’s stance against NSFW artists, piczeltv via Tumblr. Published December 3, 2018 (Accessed December 4, 2018)>.
  41. Tweet by @debwalshweb, posted December 4, 2018.
  42. Tweet by @JaneErikaBrady, posted December 4, 2018.
  43. We, the archive team, think that petitions will change nothing. by 17decemberarchive via Tumblr, published December 5, 2018 (Accessed December 9, 2018). Archive link
  44. We reached over 500 submissions but the speed is slowing a little. by 17decemberarchive via Tumblr, published December 7, 2018 (Accessed December 9, 2018). Archive link
  45. List of 67k NSFW Tumblrs submitted to Reddit in the last 7 years, sorted by frequency. by itdnhr via Reddit. Published December 4, 2018 (Accessed December 15, 2018).
  46. [https://twitter.com/textfiles/status/1073951013634113538 Tweet by @textfiles, posted December 15, 2018.
  47. Tweet by @altomare3, posted December 15, 2018.
  48. Tweet by @dada78641, posted December 15, 2018.
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  51. Tweet by @gatobob3, November 23, 2018.
  52. archive.is link
  53. Wayback machine link; archive.is link
  54. Reblog with screencaps Archived
  55. Adult content, Tumblr staff, December 3 2018
  56. “Sure. We have no problem with that kind of stuff. Go nuts. Show nuts. Whatever. “ is cited in When are breasts a bad thing?; archive link by Catherine Knowles (October 13, 2014) and at Nipple Thoughts; archive link by Adrienne Cheney (January 25, 2016) and in Tumblr Vs WordPress: 12 Reasons To Choose WP Today; archive link (January 5, 2018)
  57. Adult content; archive link (undated)
  58. A better, more positive Tumblr, December 3 2018, Jeff D’Onofrio
  59. https://navolot.tumblr.com/post/180762202299/a-better-more-positive-tumblr
  60. http://a-l-o-n-e-t-o-g-e-t-h-e-r.tumblr.com/post/180762217557/a-better-more-positive-tumblr
  61. https://dechanique.tumblr.com/post/180760536344/a-better-more-positive-tumblr, Deanna Echanique, December 3 2018
  62. Post by Luke, December 3 2018
  63. https://what-freshly-baked-hell.tumblr.com/post/180771434531/dark-tumblr-show-me-the-forbidden-female
  64. http://elitefourmellie.tumblr.com/post/180768764272/but-sir-thats-my-emotional-support-female
  65. http://elnarez.tumblr.com/post/180762033514/mister-stark-i-dont-feel-so-good
  66. Note by amaluelmwood: What’s pillowfort? I only started hearing about it when this purge started, I feel like I missed something - though I do feel like we need something like what AO3 did cor fanfic, but for art and community…
  67. Reblog by samshinechester: I’m considering going back to DW or LJ, but as I was saying yesterday, an Ao3 based social platform would kick ass. I’m really tired of packing & moving every X years, ffs.
  68. Network Of Our Own? on Fail Fandom Anon, posted November 25, 2018 (Accessed November 26, 2018).
  69. Re: Network Of Our Own? on Fail Fandom Anon, posted November 25, 2018 (Accessed November 26, 2018).
  70. Re: Network Of Our Own? on Fail Fandom Anon, posted November 25, 2018 (Accessed November 26, 2018).
  71. Seeing as tumblr seems to be pushing fandom off the platform... by transformativeworks via Tumblr, posted December 4, 2018 (Accessed December 9, 2018).
  72. Post by rivertalesien via Tumblr, posted December 4, 2018 (Accessed December 9, 2018).
  73. Tweet by @pearwaldorf, posted December 5, 2018.
  74. Tweet by @pearwaldorf, December 5, 2018.
  75. "Pornhub steals sex-workers’ labour, monetizes it, and gives them nothing back. It drives down the price of their work, and forces them to make more dangerous choices to get the same compensation. Maybe don’t hand fandom over to them." -- teapotsahoy.tumblr; archive link (Dec 5, 2018)
  76. UHM.... SO.... some fan comments, Archived version
  77. Don't Let Them Trick You - MindGeek, PornHub, and YouPorn are Bad News, Archived version (Mar 18, 2018)