Tumblr's New 'No Sex' Rules Show The Problems Of FOSTA And EU Copyright Directive In One Easy Move

from the intermediary liability protections matter dept

As you may have heard by now, on Monday, Tumblr announced that in just a couple weeks it will be banning porn from its platform as part of a change to its rules. Now, of course, Tumblr has every right to run its platform however it sees fit, but it does seem notable that it wasn’t all that long ago that Tumblr openly defended the fact that Tumblr hosts a bunch of “Not Safe For Work” content, explaining that they supported free speech, and didn’t want to be in the business of carefully determining whether or not something was “artful” photography or just porn.

Of course, that was before Verizon bought Yahoo (which had previously bought Tumblr). And it was before FOSTA became law. As Wired points out, this move to ban all porn comes just weeks after Apple banned the Tumblr app from the App Store over some illegal images (even after Tumblr was alerted and took those images down). It’s not hard to see how some execs at Verizon might have looked at all of this as a headache that just isn’t worth it — especially given the potential criminal liability that comes from FOSTA. Remember, a few months back, we noted that a bunch of online trolls were deliberately targeting women they didn’t like on various platforms claiming (often without evidence) that they were engaged in prostitution. Many of those targeted used Tumblr. It’s not difficult to see how Verizon just decided to rid itself of this whole headache.

But, beyond demonstrating the censorship problems of FOSTA, this move by Tumblr is also doing a bang up job demonstrating why mandatory filters, such as those pushed for in Article 13 in the EU Copyright Directive will be so harmful. Filters are notoriously terrible at accurately taking down only the content they’re supposed to take down. Amusingly, one of the key talking points of Article 13 filter defenders is that “well, these platforms do a great job stopping porn, so clearly they can stop infringement.” This is wrong on multiple levels, starting with the fact that the determination of what is “infringing” is entirely different from what is “porn.” But, more to the point: the porn filters don’t work very well at all.

Buzzfeed has a hilarious list of Tumblr posts that have been flagged as being adult content, that clearly… are not. Here are just a few:

Some are even claiming that reblogging Tubmlr’s own announcement resulted in flags:

But for examples of flags that are perhaps even more relevant for those of us here on Techdirt, law professor Sarah Burstein, who runs a Tumblr and Twitter feed all about design patents (often highlighting how ridiculous those design patents are) found that a bunch of her design patent images resulted in flags as inappropriate content. I am not kidding:

Believe it or not, those are just a few examples from a much longer list of flagged posts about design patents for apparently violating Tumblr’s “porn” filter.

While this is a complete travesty on a variety of levels, it demonstrates the utter futility of believing that filters will work and won’t make a huge number of mistakes, pulling down perfectly reasonable content. Those working on laws (especially over in the EU) such as the EU Copyright Directive’s Article 13 would do well to actually heed this message.

Filed Under: , , , , , , ,
Companies: tumblr, verizon

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Tumblr's New 'No Sex' Rules Show The Problems Of FOSTA And EU Copyright Directive In One Easy Move”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
47 Comments
Nom de Claviersays:

So what's the "problem"? Less pornography?

You clearly have a mania that equates "free speech" with vice, pornography, disruption, and crime.

I won’t give links, but these are numerous and known to any regular:

1) Just yesterday claiming that prostitutes are hampered and even endangered by FOSTA, with clear implication that open solicitation should be permitted.

2) Several pieces bewailing that convictions for downloading child pornography gained under a warrant should be thrown out because of a mere Court Rule that hadn’t been updated for the internet where actual location of downloader cannot be known in advance.

3) Many other pieces wanting convictions of drug dealers thrown out on sheerly technical grounds, with underlying premise that the law is to protect the known guilty. Similarly, pieces cheering when such convictions are overturned on technicality.

4) After the riot at Trump Inauguration causing much property destruction, with apparent organizing in advance, you resisted Facebook being required to provide evidence of what persons of own free will had published to the entire world.

5) This piece. According to your corporatist assertions elsewhere, Tumblr is fully within its "rights" to so manage its "platform". You claim that "platforms" can deny access for their own definitions of "hate speech", BUT YOU COMPLAIN when what’s forbidden is well within traditional limitations, widely accepted as "not safe for work".

Anonymoussays:

Re: So what's the "problem"? Less pornography?

Look at your point 5 again. Now look up at the examples in the post. It’s clear you don’t see the problem.

If you think a heart shaped locket is not safe for work, then please walk back into your time machine and go home.

Traditions change over time along with society. Please catch up with today’s society if you wish to use tradition as a soap box.

tekasays:

Re: So what's the "problem"? Less pornography?

This is parody, right?

1. bad laws that are not even good at fixing what they claim to fix are, surprisingly, a problem.
2,3 & 4: we are a nation of laws. The police, law enforcement of every type cannot take shortcuts. They cannot bend the rules because it is easier. ‘oh, it is just a technicality’ All law is technicality, weaken the protection from them at all our peril.
5: the tumblr thing shows that ‘nerding harder’ won’t make filters magically work, for one thing.

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re: So what's the "problem"? Less pornography?

No, the article (and example images) are not a parody. Those were actual images posted on Tumblr that were flagged as inappropriate by Tumblr’s filters.

Yes, they can (and do) bend the rules because it is easier all the time. Have you missed all the posts about how a police officer can user ignorance of the law as an excuse for making an unlawful search or even arrest?

Mike Masnicksays:

Re: So what's the "problem"? Less pornography?

Nearly all of the complaints you make here are attacks on due process. You sort of give away the game when you say “the known guilty.”

The point we are actually making with all of these posts you complain about are about the importance of basic civil liberties and due process — and that means that no, the government DOES NOT get to violate your rights just to secure a guilty plea.

For someone who regularly attacks us for not being “real Americans” or whatever, you certainly don’t seem to think much of basic American concepts like “innocent until proven guilty” and the limits on the power of the government to snoop on your life without probable cause or without following the rules.

I’m sorry that you want to live in a dystopian autoritarian hellhole where no one has any privacy and the government is free to abuse the law if it helps them lock up people it doesn’t like.

Some of us like to believe in civil liberties and due process even if that means a few guilty people get away with it. We do that because it protects the innocent. When you allow government to cut corners like this, it also means that plenty of innocent people get swept up in these kinds of things, as we’ve also demonstrated in numerous posts. The reason we want governments to follow the rules, and make sure they actually have legitimate access to the data they want is that it protects the innocent.

But, good to have proof that you don’t support due process or civil liberties. Of course, some of us think that’s anti-American, but you do you.

Stephen T. Stonesays:

I always enjoy dismantling these little treatises?especially when they hit upon something I am intimately familiar with: sexual content in general and queer content in particular.

So what’s the "problem"? Less pornography?

Nudity, sexuality, and discussions thereof also fall under this ban. And since LGBT/queer content is, by nature of our wonderful society, damn near always seen as explicitly ?sexual? in nature even if it were otherwise innocuous (e.g., a gay couple kissing), that content tends to get axed first.

Tumblr was a place where queer people could have frank discussions about their sexual orientations and gender identities with other queer people and not worry (too much) about being censored in some way. Queer artists of all kinds found an audience on Tumblr that they might not have found elsewhere before Tumblr became a thing, thanks in large part to Tumblr?s reblogging functionality. So yes, the ban on mature/?NSFW?/?adult? content disproportionately affects queer people because it is their content that will likely be axed well before straight content of similar (or greater) levels of sexual activity. This whole situation goes beyond mere ?pornography?; if you were more interested in growing your perspective of the world instead of trying (and failing) to make yourself seem like a superior person, you might understand that.

prostitutes are hampered and even endangered by FOSTA, with clear implication that open solicitation should be permitted

Oh, a diversion into something else? Okay, I got time to kill. So! Two things:

  1. Prostitutes who work for pimps and traffickers are explicitly endangered by FOSTA because FOSTA makes harder the job of finding those pimps and traffickers.
  2. If an adult willingly wants to exchange sex for cash, I fail to see the issue.

Several pieces bewailing that convictions for downloading child pornography gained under a warrant should be thrown out because of a mere Court Rule that hadn’t been updated for the internet where actual location of downloader cannot be known in advance.

Yeah, you?re gonna have to provide links for that, because you?re either pulling shit out of your ass or exceedingly simplifying things so as to remove important context and make yourself sound superior.

Many other pieces wanting convictions of drug dealers thrown out on sheerly technical grounds, with underlying premise that the law is to protect the known guilty. Similarly, pieces cheering when such convictions are overturned on technicality.

Drug dealers are not inhuman monsters that we can lock up without trials, regardless of whether you want to believe that. They are people?and so long as we have laws that protect the rights of the people, those drug dealers are afforded both the presumption of innocence before they enter a courtroom and the same protections that the law affords to everyone else. You might wish to suspend their rights for the sake of putting them in prison; the courts, however, will not abide by your unconstitutional actions.

After the riot at Trump Inauguration causing much property destruction, with apparent organizing in advance, you resisted Facebook being required to provide evidence of what persons of own free will had published to the entire world.

What Techdirt resisted was an overreach by prosecutors to discover evidence that had nothing to do with convicting people of a crime and everything to do with finding more people to arrest on trumped-up charges because they happened to be at the protest at the same time as said destruction of property. (Also you should be happy that only property was destroyed. A car can be replaced; a human life cannot.)

According to your corporatist assertions elsewhere, Tumblr is fully within its "rights" to so manage its "platform". You claim that "platforms" can deny access for their own definitions of "hate speech", BUT YOU COMPLAIN when what’s forbidden is well within traditional limitations, widely accepted as "not safe for work".

And here?we?go.

Verizon is fully within its rights to manage Tumblr however it sees fit. (Reminder that Yahoo bought Tumblr and Verizon bought Yahoo. Verizon owns Tumblr as a result. Ha Ha! Corporate vore.) Their decisions, however, can be criticized by anyone?including the very userbase that would be alienated by those decisions.

For the past few years, Tumblr had several problems. The porn bot issue aside, it also had issues with refusals to mitigate on-site harassment, rampant spreading of White nationalist/Nazi propaganda, and?yes?the child pornography problem. Tumblr management chose to sidestep all those issues until circumstances forced their hand into addressing them, then it chose to use a supposedly one-size-fits-all solution in banning ?NSFW? content and declaring that to be nothing but pornography, then it enacted a shitty filter that tagged completely innocuous images as ?NSFW?. Never mind when it initially removed ?sensitive? content from its search results and ?accidentally? targeted LGBT/queer content as a result (e.g., searching for ?queer? bringing up few-to-no results).

While I understand the desire to knock pornography off the platform?high-end corporate advertisers don?t like their products appearing next to ?female-presenting nipples? and all?I also understand that the ?NSFW? designation (or any substitute or variation thereof) is also used to stifle legitimate conversations and information about sexuality, including educational content. It also makes creating works that either include or focus on sex much harder to share (let alone monetize). And that presents an issue for adults who want to create/experience these works, because it drives them off major platforms like Tumblr (and Twitter and Livejournal?) and back into smaller, more marginalized platforms where they cannot find/be an audience for such works.

Tumblr has every right to ban pornography, nudity, and talk of sexuality. Those of us with an ounce of goddamn sense recognize and understand this. But that does not mean we agree with the decision to do so?not if it means ?hate speech? goes unpunished because it does not cross any boundaries into ?NSFW? territory on first glance, and especially if queer content is the first (and possibly primary) target for the filters. We will criticize this decision for being heavy-handed, short-sighted corporate bullshit that is going to kill Tumblr faster than the spambots and the App Store lockout ever would have.

If you do not like our criticisms, well?join Tumblr and whine about it there. Come December 17th, you?ll have plenty of yelling space where all the people who were on the service used to be!

James Burkhardtsays:

Re:

>Several pieces bewailing that convictions for downloading child pornography gained under a warrant should be thrown out because of a mere Court Rule that hadn’t been updated for the internet where actual location of downloader cannot be known in advance.

>Yeah, you?re gonna have to provide links for that, because you?re either pulling shit out of your ass or exceedingly simplifying things so as to remove important context and make yourself sound superior.

I think he is referring to the jurisdictional rules that have been occasionally used to shut down CP stings that have been eliminated.

I would argue that running a child porn distribution site to catch a minority of those who visited rather than shut down the site was a worse crime then the crimes they were prosecuting, and that jurisdictional limits have value to ensure respect for local laws and protections.

But as Mike said, the troll clearly dislikes Due process and civil liberties.

Mike Masnicksays:

Re: Re:

I think he is referring to the jurisdictional rules that have been occasionally used to shut down CP stings that have been eliminated.

Yes, you can read more here:

https://www.techdirt.com/blog/?tag=playpen

The issue was that the FBI shut down a huge child porn site (which we’re fine with them doing…) but in the process did a bunch of hugely questionable things. First, after seizing the site it continued to run the site itself for a while (yes, the FBI ran a child porn site). While it did that, it got a warrant to track down the visitors to that site, but the warrant was located in one jurisdiction (in Virginia, if I remember correctly) but then used to arrest people across the US.

There were some rules on the books (since changed) that said that you can’t issue a warrant in one jurisdiction, and then use that elsewhere. But that’s what the FBI did. A bunch of courts have said that this clearly violated the law, and should not have been done, but none have been willing to throw out any of the convictions because of it. And now that rule has changed so that the DOJ can get a warrant in one location and use it elsewhere if it’s on a computer network. We still have some concerns about the constitutionality of such a move for a variety of reasons…

Stephen T. Stonesays:

Re: Re:

You must have hung out in the queer section.

I actually do not go actively looking for queer content on Tumblr?but I have come across it all the same while looking at blogs of people I followed, people who followed me, and other users in general. Really, wasn?t too hard to find some girl-on-girl or guy-on-guy content outside of the dedicated porn blogs, so long as the definition of ?content? includes literally anything other than straight-up porn.

Killercoolsays:

Re:

I love it when people say someone "got off on a technicality."

I’d say that, more often than not, that "technicality" is the frikkin’ CONSTITUTION!

I know, I know, who cares about a ~250 year old contract, as long as someone gets punished, right?

I guess it is a technicality, if you mean, "Technically, we only violated the highest laws of the land."

An unconstitutional warrant? DA says "technicality."

Didn’t read someone their rights before interrogating them? "Technicality."

Unconstitutionally searched a house? "Technicality."

Illegally seized property? "Technicality."

Denied a suspect access to his lawyer? "Technicality."

Illegally recorded a suspect’s privileged conversations with said lawyer? "Techni-fucking-cality."

Gwizsays:

Re:

BUT YOU COMPLAIN when what’s forbidden is well within traditional limitations…

Do you even know what year it is? Because it’s not the 1950’s anymore and traditions have changed drastically since then. If we go by the traditions of 40 years ago, we should all be having sex with as many people as possible and gyrating our scantily clad bodies at discotheques while snorting lines of coke off the table.

 

…widely accepted as "not safe for work".

That is not any sort barometer for this. What people do at work and what people do in the privacy of their own homes are completely different things.

Seegrassays:

Not Safe for Work

I have no idea what you mean with “not safe for work”. Which kind of “work” exactly?

As a sysadmin of a hosting company I actually sometimes had to look at pornographic sites — because customers of ours had trouble with php errors and wanted help or somesuch. Plus there are people in the porn business, for which porn is obviously very much “safe for work”.

On the other hand, my current job has nothing to do with customer hosting, so for me right now just about ANY non-technical page on the internet has nothing to do with work, and is therefore “not safe for work”. And this includes facebook, most news-sites and techdirt.

So don’t go around with useless euphemisms like NSFW when you actually mean “porn”. Fucking puritan pukes, all.

Anonymoussays:

Re: So what's the "problem"? Less pornography?

You know pornography is how copyright enforcement is getting strongarmed into anything and everything, right?

The mere accusation of downloading porn, and the social embarrassment from that suggestion, was what drove the Prenda Law settlement machine. Not whether any porn was being downloaded, but the mere allegation.

Hell, FOSTA’s replacement of SOPA was purely successful because sex workers happen to be a thing. Which wasn’t needed to take down Backpage, in the exact same way SOPA wasn’t needed to take down Megaupload, but hey! Sex!

Pornography could disappear off the face of the Earth and it still wouldn’t remove vice, prostitution and crime. The fact that police, post-FOSTA, are claiming it’s even harder to prosecute pimps proves this. But you know what would be also even harder? The ability to prosecute on copyright.

By the way, Strike 3 Holdings just got utterly slammed by a judge for their business model, so even that might be in jeopardy. So I’ll just leave it at that with another fact for your crippled raisin of a brain:

out_of_the_blue just hates it when due process is enforced.

Anonymoussays:

Out of all of these weird social media sites… Tumblr on a technical level is pretty awesome.

It makes so many other platforms look like you are banging rocks together with being able to manage different accounts, the ease of just throwing up a small Twitter sized post or a huge blog post…

Interface works fairly well, plenty of sensible features… and most importantly free and easy to find like minded people through the tagging.

The downsides of Tumblr are manifest and too much to repeat here… and now there will be a single Tumblr post remaining that says “Bring back the porn”

actually that’d probably be flagged too

Rico R.says:

Sometime in the not-to-distant future...

The part where Tumblr flagged their own post about the flagging reminds me of this one scene from Thomas and the Magic Railroad. I’d show you the clip, but Article 13 censored it, even with the Tumblr logo and the flag icon covering the two characters. You’ll just have to take my word for it… Again, tell me how we’re not in an Orwellian future?

That One Guysays:

'Nuke it from orbit, it's the only way to be sure.'

So in attempting to ‘clean up’ the platform, they instead deploy a filter that’s basically gutting people’s accounts, ensuring a mass-exodus now and in the near future.

Killing a platform and everything that comes with it… I suppose much like burning down your house because you got mold in one room, it will do the job, but it is slightly overkill.

Jamessays:

I love Tumblr and have been an active user for years. On Tue, I had 3/4 of my 95% SFW fashion blog blacklisted, where fully clothed woman were flagged as porn. Interaction from followers of my blog plummeted from hundreds of likes and reblogs a day to about a dozen. So I theorize, Tumblr restricted feeding my fully clothed “porn” pics into other’s feeds.

My feed of those I follow became 85% Rated G. It was like staring at photos of vanilla and within minutes, I became very bored.

As Tumblr warms up to Apple’s censorship, it is becoming a lovely site for those who like to peruse photos of apple, granny & maybe cats without nipples. Apple might be pleased with its puritan ways, but is now on my boycott list for what I perceive as its negative impact on intelligent, grown up society.

Unrelated to Tumblr but from the “To add to the other conversation on this thread dept”…

I’ve been fortunate and never needed the services of a prostitute. But, prostitution should be a legal profession just like it is for congress. Only difference is, prostitutes should never be looked down on by society because they actually perform a valuable service for citizens whereas congress is just an overpaid, corrupt corporate whore. It’s the 21rst century and the U.S. is still controlled by religious zealots and not too far removed from bringing back witch burnings. Anyone who visits intellectually mature countries such as Scandinavia and Amsterdam can see how regulated prostitution is a net positive and safe for ALL. When forced underground, it opens up prostitutes and their customers to all manner of unsafe conditions.

A Little-Mooresays:

Techdirt nuts as usual out on end of the branch:

Due to porn, children are sexually assaulting other children at alarming rates

The Children’s Mercy hospital says that they are seeing "a disturbing trend in child sexual assault cases," and that pornography has a lot to do with it. Heide Olson, the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner, noted that the number of offenders between 11 and 15 years of age is unprecedented: "I think [what] was kind of shocking to us all as we were collecting this data, is that almost half of our perpetrators are minors."

https://www.kshb.com/news/local-news/children-abusing-children-childrens-mercy-sees-dangerous-trend-involving-children-and-porn

Facebook BANS users who mention sex…

https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/7935520/facebook-bans-users-who-talk-about-their-sex-lives-in-crackdown-on-anything-that-encourages-sexual-encounters/

Two major "platforms, Tumblr and Facebook agree with me: the place for that ain’t among the decent! Again shows how extreme are Techdirt’s views.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...
Loading...
Older Stuff
13:40 It's Great That Winnie The Pooh Is In The Public Domain; But He Should Have Been Free In 1982 (Or Earlier) (35)
12:06 Norton 360 Now Comes With Crypto Mining Capabilities And Sketchy Removal Process (28)
10:45 Chinese Government Dragnet Now Folding In American Social Media Platforms To Silence Dissent (14)
10:40 Daily Deal: The 2022 Ultimate Cybersecurity Analyst Preparation Bundle (0)
09:29 A Fight Between Facebook And The British Medical Journal Highlights The Difficulty Of Moderating 'Medical Misinformation' (9)
06:29 Court Ruling Paves The Way For Better, More Reliable Wi-Fi (4)
20:12 Eighth Circuit (Again) Says There's Nothing Wrong With Detaining Innocent Minors At Gunpoint (15)
15:48 China's Regulatory War On Its Gaming Industry Racks Up 14k Casualties (10)
13:31 Chinese Government Fines Local Car Dealerships For Surveilling While Not Being The Government (5)
12:08 Eric Clapton Pretends To Regret The Decision To Sue Random German Woman Who Listed A Bootleg Of One Of His CDs On Ebay (29)
10:44 ICE Is So Toxic That The DHS's Investigative Wing Is Asking To Be Completely Separated From It (29)
10:39 Daily Deal: The 2022 Complete Raspberry Pi And Arduino Developer Bundle (0)
09:31 Google Blocked An Article About Police From The Intercept... Because The Title Included A Phrase That Was Also A Movie Title (24)
06:22 Wireless Carriers Balk At FAA Demand For 5G Deployment Delays Amid Shaky Safety Concerns (16)
19:53 Tenth Circuit Denies Qualified Immunity To Social Worker Who Fabricated A Mother's Confession Of Child Abuse (35)
15:39 Sci-Hub's Creator Thinks Academic Publishers, Not Her Site, Are The Real Threat To Science, And Says: 'Any Law Against Knowledge Is Fundamentally Unjust' (34)
13:32 Federal Court Tells Proud Boys Defendants That Raiding The Capitol Building Isn't Covered By The First Amendment (25)
12:14 US Courts Realizing They Have A Judge Alan Albright Sized Problem In Waco (17)
10:44 Boston Police Department Used Forfeiture Funds To Hide Purchase Of Surveillance Tech From City Reps (16)
10:39 Daily Deal: The Ultimate Microsoft Excel Training Bundle (0)
09:20 NY Senator Proposes Ridiculously Unconstitutional Social Media Law That Is The Mirror Opposite Of Equally Unconstitutional Laws In Florida & Texas (25)
06:12 Telecom Monopolies Are Exploiting Crappy U.S. Broadband Maps To Block Community Broadband Grant Requests (7)
12:00 Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of 2021 At Techdirt (17)
10:00 Gaming Like It's 1926: Join The Fourth Annual Public Domain Game Jam (6)
09:00 New Year's Message: The Arc Of The Moral Universe Is A Twisty Path (33)
19:39 DHS, ICE Begin Body Camera Pilot Program With Surprisingly Good Policies In Place (7)
15:29 Remembering Techdirt Contributors Sherwin And Elliot (1)
13:32 DC Metro PD's Powerful Review Panel Keeps Giving Bad Cops Their Jobs Back (6)
12:11 Missouri Governor Still Expects Journalists To Be Prosecuted For Showing How His Admin Leaked Teacher Social Security Numbers (39)
10:48 Oversight Board Overturning Instagram Takedown Of Ayahuasca Post Demonstrates The Impossibility Of Content Moderation (10)
More arrow
This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it