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Tumblr to Ban Adult Content, Potentially Harming Sex Workers, on Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers

Tumblr is about to be a lot more buttoned-up.

With an update posted to its own blog, social media site Tumblr announced that its policy on adult content would change on December 17.

“Starting Dec 17, adult content will not be allowed on Tumblr, regardless of how old you are,” the post reads. According to the site, adult content is comprised of photos, videos, or GIFs that show genitals or … “female-presenting nipples,” including anything that shows or illustrates a sex act.

The announcement had everyone tweeting “RIP Tumblr” from the get, though there were two groups of people in particular who began to speak up about the decision: sex workers and their allies.

“This is part of the war on sex workers and the war on sex,” Conner Habib, an adult film star and former vice president of the Adult Performer Advocacy Committee, tweeted following the news breaking. “I am sad for all adult creators who will be affected, not to mention audiences.”

Tumblr’s move to ban adult content comes only a few months after Trump signed SESTA/FOSTA into law. The bill, purportedly aimed at fighting sex trafficking, had far-reaching implications for freedom of speech on the internet and ultimately led to the closure of several digital spaces where sex workers could operate safely, especially Craigslist.

“I know so many people who were able to start working indoors or leave their exploitative situations because of Backpage and Craigslist,” an organizer with Survivors Against SESTA told VICE in an interview. “They were able to screen for clients and keep themselves safe and save up money to leave the people exploiting them. And now that those sites are down, people are going back to pimps. Pimps are texting providers every day saying ‘the game’s changed. You need me.’”

Several people also pointed out online that the platform’s tentative date to ban all adult content is December 17, which is also International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, a day of international vigils to raise awareness for the violence, discrimination and stigma people engaged in sex work face.

In a statement to INTO, Audacia Ray, the director of community organizing and public advocacy at the New York City Anti-Violence Project, said the platform was “threatening people’s livelihoods while also exposing people to violence.” 

“Since SESTA/FOSTA was passed in April 2018, there has been a growing number of companies who had previously been friendly or at least tolerant of sex workers have preemptively shut down sex worker access to their services and platforms,” Ray said in a statement. “The loss of Tumblr as a platform where sex workers can connect with each other and build safety, online and off, further harms the sex worker community — particularly for trans and gender nonconforming folks who do sex work online. Tumblr is threatening people’s livelihoods while also exposing people to violence.”

Image via Getty


Mathew Rodriguez

Mathew is a staff writer at INTO. His work has appeared in Mic, Slate and Complex. He loves "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," Flannery O'Connor and female rappers and is working on a memoir.

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