Tumblr Is Making It Harder to Find Porn by Censoring Search Results

"If Tumblr doesn't want it, they are going to lose most of their audience," says one critic.

An image that will be removed from Tumblr.

The official date that Tumblr will start removing adult content was announced this month as Monday, December 17, but the steps toward the purge had already started on Friday, with Tumblr appearing to censor search results for people looking to find adult content on the site that’s become a home for artists and adult content creators.

A search for porn on the site now yields zero results. On Thursday, a stream of GIFs and photos still appeared in the results. Meanwhile, a search for nude only yields images of paintings and sculptures, whereas, pictures of people and more explicit drawings populated the search results on Thursday. The Tumblr app has also returned to the Apple app store, Gizmodo reported Thursday evening.

While censoring search results isn’t the same as a ban, it does make adult content harder to find on the site. Inverse has asked Tumblr if it plans to expedite the porn ban and will update this story when we hear back.

Tumblr results for "porn" on December 14, 2018.

The policy change will erase communities centered around pornography, sex positivity, and artistic nude photography, say artists who on Tumblr who have found a home for their work.

There’s now an exodus ahead for those content creators and porn enthusiasts, as they seek for an alternative space online. Some tell Inverse that they’re not hopeful that they’ll find a permanent home. Some critics say Tumblr’s shift — which will get it in front of more mainstream audiences via the Apple app store — will also cost it loyal users.

“There are always people who will want to absorb pornographic material an edgy content and things that are generally kicked off the more PG-style sites,” says Youtuber Styxhexenhammer666 in a video posted in early December that has been watched more than 55,00 times. “The problem is that if Tumblr doesn’t want it, they are going to lose most of their audience and that audience will go elsewhere. Twitter can be used for that.”

This message greets Tumblr users on their dashboard.
This message greets Tumblr users on their dashboard.

Tumblr user “Knobska” began using the site two years ago by initially observing the fetish and kink communities, and ultimately starting his own blog that amassed approximately 2,500 followers. Once the site’s new policy kicks in, that will disappear and he will lose contact with a community he interacted with daily. Knobska is migrating his content to Twitter, a platform he’s not thrilled to be forced into using.

“I guess you could call that my plan B,” he tells Inverse via Twitter DM. “The problem is that it’s as inherently unreliable as Tumblr — tomorrow they could decide to ban NSFW content as well. Twitter is also a divisive choice – I had one person ask me which platform I was moving to, and they were disappointed when I said Twitter. They choose not to have a Twitter account because of the hateful/harassing stuff you see on that platform.”

tumblr porn ban
Tumblr's statement announcing it would be banning all adult content.

Those that exclusively consume porn on Tumblr are also taking to Twitter. The social media site allows adult content in the form of photographs and pre-recorded video in certain but it doesn’t have the same kind of deep-rooted and close-knit communities as Tumblr.

“Mitzy,” exclusively used Tumblr for porn and won’t be returning to the site after the December 17 policy change. However, they tell Inverse that Twitter won’t come close to filling the gap Tumblr has left. The site provided unique content and privacy that Mitzy said Twitter just falls flat with.

“Twitter won’t replace Tumblr because of [the way] people expressed themselves,” they said in a Twitter direct message. “I don’t really interact with people but I did express myself on there a couple of times. Most of my friends don’t have Tumblr so it’s easier for me to use [unlike] platforms where they know what I’m doing”

So why don’t these people just use popular porn sites like PornHub or YouPorn? Well, they likely do seeing as PornHub, for example, had 33.8 billion visits this year alone. But Tumblr provided more than just BangBros footage, aesthetic nude photography was a big allure for Tumblr users like Stephanie.

“I used to reblog not only typical porn but also nude photography and erotic photography,” they said. “Since I place value on quality and aesthetics, regular porn sites are not an option.”

For the time being, it appears that many users dealing with the impending Tumblr porn ban are moving to Twitter. It’s not as personalized, varied, or community-centric as Tumblr but it’s serving as a temporary pit stop as people like Knobska, Mitzy, and Stephanie. But they aren’t getting too comfortable.

“I wonder if we’ll be in this situation again a year from now, regretting that we as a community didn’t migrate to a more sex-positive place,” said Knobska.

But does a platform like that as large and accepting as Tumblr exist? At the moment, it doesn’t seem so.