Tumblr reemerges on the App Store after controversial NSFW purge

Tumblr reemerges on the App Store after controversial NSFW purge
Credit: Tumblr

After a turbulent few weeks, it appears Tumblr may finally be back on track. Its app has now reappeared in the iOS App Store. The company’s recent moves to purge adult content from its site have been met with stiff resistance from users, but it appears it might have worked out in the company’s favor.

For almost a month, Tumblr has maintained a page on its help site about the iOS app, promising that its staff was working to restore the app and giving more background on why it was removed in the first place. Last night, that page was updated with the following information: “The Tumblr iOS app is back in the App Store and available for download. Thanks again for your patience.”

The Tumblr app first vanished from the App Store under mysterious circumstances in November. After an investigation by Download, the company voluntarily revealed the reason why the app had been pulled was the proliferation of child abuse images on the site, saying:

As this is an industry-wide problem, we work collaboratively with our industry peers and partners like NCMEC [National Center for Missing and Exploited Children] to actively monitor content uploaded to the platform. Every image uploaded to Tumblr is scanned against an industry database of known child sexual abuse material, and images that are detected never reach the platform. A routine audit discovered content on our platform that had not yet been included in the industry database. We immediately removed this content. 

That seemed to be the end of it, as Tumblr‘s statement that it was collaborating NCMEC would indicate it was coming to a resolution and would be returning to the App Store after it’d bettered its detection algorithms.

But it never did. Then, ten days ago, Tumblr revealed it was taking the nuclear option by banning any and all adult content from the site. This swiftly alienated a large portion of the fanbase, who decried the rules not only for going against what many considered a primary use for the site, but for having sexist phrasing (the new rules specified no “female-presenting nipples”). Others said this ban unfairly punished the women and minority groups who used Tumblr to explore their sexuality in healthy and judgement-free zone.

Now that the app has reappeared on the store, however, it appears this may have worked out for Tumblr, for all the complaints from its users. And that might be more evidence to Tumblr staff who would otherwise have been swayed to relax the ban that this is what it’ll take for the site to survive.

If it remains in place, the Tumblr adult ban may not only unfairly affect niche communities, but it may always lead to false bans against other, SFW blogs. We’ve already seen the Tumblr algorithm misidentify several innocent posts, meaning it’s not been perfected yet — and in fact might be quite a long way away from being perfected.

The Tumblr Android app has remained up on the Google Play Store this whole time.

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