UPDATE: Tumblr hides porn from search

This story was originally published on July 19, 2013. Update (July 22 @ 10:11 EST) : Tumblr CEO David Karp has responded to user complaints about hidden NSFW content on Tumblr’s staff blog. In the post Karp said NSFW content will no longer be hidden from search unless a user is in Tumblr’s default “safe […]

This story was originally published on July 19, 2013.

Update (July 22 @ 10:11 EST) : Tumblr CEO David Karp has responded to user complaints about hidden NSFW content on Tumblr’s staff blog. In the post Karp said NSFW content will no longer be hidden from search unless a user is in Tumblr’s default “safe mode.” Karp said the changes to Tumblr blogs’ search listings were intended to prevent commercial porn spammers and that Tumblr has since changed its NSFW tag to only hide content from users in safe mode, not outside search engines. He also clarified that Tumblr hides certain tags – like #gay – on mobile because they return content that could get Tumblr’s app banned from app stores.

After suggesting adult content would stay, social site buries its dirty pics

When Yahoo acquired Tumblr earlier this year for over $1 billion, many wondered what would become of the site’s mass of pornography. The answer is becoming more clear as many Tumblr users have begun to report this week that blogs flagged as adult are now hidden from the site’s search, narrowing their ability to draw in visitors.

Adult blogs are also now blocked from Google, Bing and other search engines, effectively shutting them off from the rest of the web. Further worrying Tumblr’s pro-porn users is the company’s tendency to flip-flop, most notably from its previous anti-advertising stance to its current courting of big brand names.

“They have not technically censored us. Rather, they have made it essentially impossible for us to find and engage with new connections and people, by completely cutting us off from all forms of discovery,” explains the now-unsearchable artist Slugbox in a post that has gone viral on Tumblr.

The changes are not surprising given that Yahoo is looking to turn a profit from the large investment it made in Tumblr. One of Tumblr’s main revenue streams is advertising and to sell ad space to mainstream brands wary of associating themselves with NSFW content, some have suggested the site will have to crack down on the adult blogs hosted on the network, which account for about 10% of Tumblr’s most popular domains.

However, the moves Tumblr has made to hide its stash of porn blogs conflict with what its top brass have said publicly about the company’s plans to maintain its culture, which includes many users who are there to post and consumer adult content.

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer stated at the time of Yahoo’s acquisition that she would ‘let Tumblr be Tumblr,’ hinting the porn would stay. The changes also come in stark contrast with comments made by Tumblr CEO David Karp just this week during an appearance on The Colbert Report.

“We’ve taken a pretty hard line on freedom of speech, supporting our users’ creation, whatever that looks like, and it’s just not something we want to police … I don’t want have to go in there to draw the line between this photo and this behind-the-scenes photo of Lady Gaga and, like, her nip,” Karp told Stephen Colbert during the interview.

This is not the first time Tumblr has gone back on its word in its quest to transform the highly trafficked site into a profitable company. Back in 2010 Karp told the Los Angeles Times “We’re pretty opposed to advertising,” adding, “It really turns our stomachs.”

Three years later Karp made the trip to the Cannes Lion International Festival of Creativity to meet with marketers and convince them Tumblr is an effective place to spend their ad dollars. In an interview during the conference, Karp said he believed good ads could actually make Tumblr better.

Behind the Yahoo/Tumblr deal


This graphic originally appeared in the July 8 issue of Marketing.

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