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Tumblr users are logging off to protest new guidelines, but will it work?

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Others are more cynical about waves of protest and some just don’t care

Photo by Rob Kim/Getty Images for Tumblr

Today, many Tumblr users are logging off the website in an organized protest against the new community guidelines, which will crack down on adult content.

On Dec. 3, Tumblr announced its new community policies prohibiting certain types of adult content — including pornographic GIFs and videos, as well as “female-presenting nipples” — would go into effect today, Dec. 17. When first announced, these new guidelines were met with much resistance by the community, especially sex-positive blogs and adult-oriented art. Many pointed out the double-standard: blogs dedicated to adult content do not show up on search, but blogs dedicated to alt-right ideologies do.

In the days preceding the guidelines’ launch, users circulated petitions and posts about a log-off protest. There are guidelines about proper protest protocol, graphics made in support of those participating, posts urging people to change their phone providers from Verizon (Tumblr’s parent company), all in an effort to protest these changes. Those participating hope that a possible sharp decrease in ad revenue for the day will send a message to the company.

“What this does is cause a massive dip in ad revenue for one single day. That does not make staff think ‘oh everyone’s gone let’s shut down,’” reads one massively-reblogged post, which delineates more specificities. “What it actually makes them think is ‘oh shit people aren’t happy and if people don’t keep using our site we’re out of money and out of jobs.”

Further discontent has rippled since it became clear that the algorithm set to flag content as NSFW was accidentally marking innocent posts are explicit. The new rules also start on International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, something users across social media have bitterly noted.

While many are logging out of their blogs and taking to other social media, there are others who will stick around. Some post humorous takes on the situation and letting others know they’ll be around, while others lament that a one day log-off protest won’t do anything.

It’s not the first time Tumblr has rallied for changes. Previously, urged by the site itself Tumblr users rallied against SOPA and maintaining net neutrality. Tumblr users have had issues with more granular changes, such as those made to the platform’s user interface in 2014.

It’s unclear whether or not the amount of users logging off in protest will have an actual impact on the management or daily revenue of the site, as many participating in the log-off hope for. After all, while there are troves of people who are logging off, it seems that many others are lingering on the site. Some of the more popular posts regarding the protest have almost 200,000 likes and reblogs, but there’s no certain way to determine just how many of the 451.4 million blogs on Tumblr actually logged out.

“DO NOT GIVE UP. It may take months, even years to make them realize that the adult band is bad,” reads another popular post, urging users to keep persisting. “That Nazis and bots will still exist after this. That they can remove the kiddie porn and the bots in a manner that does not leave millions of artists without a job. But during this time, DO NOT STOP speaking out against this. If it becomes a lost cause, then the ban may never be lifted.”

We’ve reached out to Tumblr for a statement regarding the site activity and the protests and will update accordingly.

Update: In response to Polygon’s query about if and how Tumblr users are logging off, a spokesperson at Oath directed us to the Tumblr staff’s blog post about the site-wide standards, specifically highlighting a paragraph about marginalized communities:

Tumblr will always be a place to explore your identity. Tumblr has always been home to marginalized communities and always will be. We fully recognize Tumblr’s special obligation to these communities and are committed to ensuring that our new policy on adult content does not silence the vital conversations that take place here every day. LGBTQ+ conversations, exploration of sexuality and gender, efforts to document the lives and challenges of those in the sex worker industry, and posts with pictures, videos, and GIFs of gender-confirmation surgery are all examples of content that is not only permitted on Tumblr but actively encouraged.