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Tumblr’s anti-porn algorithm is flagging basically everything as NSFW (dailydot.com)
125 points by imartin2k 6 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 145 comments





Oath is desperate to put more ads on Tumblr, because they massively overpaid for it ($1 billion) and have been throwing money at it ever since (100s of millions). I guess because of the way the content is displayed they can't just segregate nsfw stuff into a demonetized stream, but if they think they can turn Tumblr into a mainstream site that shows family-centric ads, they clearly don't understand what they bought.

This is clearly Tumblr's Digg moment. They are going to have a 100% write down on this one.

It is also worth adding Twitter has built a reasonable ad business and they are full of just as much porn as Tumblr. Google actually shows ads for porn and other adult services on their platform. If any of the higher ups at Verizon are reading this:

- Fire everyone involved in the NSFW filtering. Clearly this wasn't even tested.

- Fire everyone who thought NSFW material had to be purged from your platform.

There is a short window where you can reverse the decision and benefit from all of the people who were reminded Tumblr existed. After that window closes, your business is dead.


- Fire everyone who thought NSFW material had to be purged from your platform.

I mean, can't they see that a lot of traffic flows through tumblr via those interests? Do they not know how much of a loss of usage that this will cause? I legitimately have zero other reason to use tumblr.


On the contrary, it's probably a small part of their service. The nature of Tumblr is to make it easy to find like minded people, and construct a subset of the site that's full of what you're into. So it's very easy to feel "Tumblr is all left-wing teens" or "Tumblr is all porn" depending on what you go looking for. But Tumblr is a galaxy of niches and I doubt porn was their mainstay. This fact probably caused them to underestimate the disruptive effect of banning it.

Actually, I more tend to agree with this article (https://techcrunch.com/2013/02/18/tumblr-is-not-what-you-thi...) that a big part of the appeal of Tumblr was a bit more the opposite of this: Tumblr could act as a personal microblog of sorts, where you could put up a page that wasn't very easily discoverable, and share with a few friends interests and memes that you didn't want to necessarily broadcast to the world in full Facebook fashion. That includes people's porn stashes, as well as NSFW kinks and other quirks. Other stuff too (memes etc.), but the NSFW was a significant part of Tumblr.

Furthermore, my impression of Tumblr was that it had quite a bit of artists. Most artist-oriented platforms have policies that aim at banning the more overt commercial pornography, while allowing artistic nudity or erotica with appropriate tags (see DeviantArt, Vimeo, etc.) I was actually quite surprised that Tumblr didn't try this route at first to be honest. From what I can tell the "adult content ban" Tumblr implemented is way overly broad-based, not to mention very US-moral attitude centric (eg "female presenting nipples" is less of a big deal in many countries).


The way you find content in Tumblr is (1) you somehow find one example of the type, perhaps from an outside link or a search, (2) you click the content and find who liked it, (3) you go to each of their blogs and if it has content you're into, you follow it. Iterate until you've connected to the entire like-minded community.

This is why I described it as a galaxy of niches. It provides a sort of discoverable obscurity that makes connecting to signal rather than noise rather easy.

It's also what makes it hard to see beyond your own niche if you don't actually own the servers.


I'm not a big fan of this meme of porn being bigger than what it is. Tumblr was never about that and Snapchat wasn't and isn't a sexting app.

The adult content that showed up was pretty annoying, especially on some tags that were seemingly less censored. Like, most LGBT tags were clean, but some would have a lot for whatever reason. I'd welcome the change back then (which was around acquisition time). But even then it was apparent Tumblr's odds of becoming anything other than another diary/blog graveyard weren't great.

Tumblr occasionally banning thinspo blogs was probably much more of an "attack" on the core user base. Not by numbers but in spirit.

edit: and for the record I'm not especially talking about parent's comment, not sure why i picked this one, mostly agree with it


Last time Tumblr broke out the numbers porn was 11% of the biggest blogs. More than 1 out of 10 blogs is a porn blog. That's a huge portion of their user base and will likely cause it to totally crash.

As long as the overlap with regular users is small there's no reason for why that would cascade [0].

That kind of content is usually banned/censored on most mainstream services, just letting it be will get you a non-insignificant number. I've seen people claim 3% for twitter, no clue if true or not, but few would say that about Twitter here. Too many people in tech are in the core user-base to fall for this.

[0] unless shut down this will be a loooong slow death no matter what happens. I still have a semi popular account on one of the dead sites of the era. Everybody knows it's dead but these communities are a bit like families, hard to completely ghost them.


I agree with the diagnoses of “not tested” and here’s why:

They should have been running this filter for months tagging content but not revealing the decision. Auditing the results and looking at the statistics.

If the filter is being overzealous then shouldn’t the stats show that a lot of NSFW material is on the site and that it gets traffic?

So then why pull the trigger anyway? Empire building? Bureaucracy?


>This is clearly Tumblr's Digg moment.

Hit the nail on the head with that one. Digg and Tumblr should get together and write a blog "How to lose your entire user base in 1 day."


> They are going to have a 100% write down on this one.

They already did that (the goodwill portion anyway) in 2016 before selling to Verizon.

Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/briansolomon/2016/07/18/yahoo-r...


Fire everyone involved in the NSFW filtering. Clearly this wasn't even tested.

This is the part I really don't understand. Wouldn't you do a test run through their site and do some checking? You cannot claim you don't have examples available.


Image analysis takes time. You’d have X servers to deal with new images and either a whole lot more to catch up on the back catalog or more simply just soft launch weeks or months ahead of time.

I hope whoever is in charge of quality just had a coup instead of being blamed for this.


Sure it takes time, but before the public ever sees anything, I just have a tough time believing they didn't test it on the inventory of images (or at least a large subset) before inflicting it on the public. Improper testing is a PR embarrassment and has real consequences.

To me it feels like a "management removed the free snacks" moment. Doesn't affect me directly, but what it says about how things are changing makes me think "doomed in very short order".

> Oath is desperate to put more ads on Tumblr, because they massively overpaid for it ($1 billion) and have been throwing money at it ever since (100s of millions).

OK, but where is the problem with NSFW content (which is quite different from porn) for this?

I know, I am German, where there is quite a different mentality with this respect (in my hometown I have even seen openly posted bills for a big porn exhibition in Berlin in the past and nobody (except for the churches) was upset).

I can understand that many brands do not want their ads placed next to porn. But where is the problem with other NSFW content?


Ask any marketer from a large brand (such a BMW or Adidas) -- their "brand safety" rules are very strict, and any kind of NSFW is a big no-no. Its not just hardcore porn.

Advertisers like sexiness but don't like porn because they want their customer base to stay frustrated and chase satisfaction via materialist comsumption. It's a blend of Puritan work ethic with soulless corporate exploitation.

> and chase satisfaction via materialist comsumption.

Sounds like porn to me. ;-)


Strong puritanical roots in the united states, pervasive throughout society.

Corporate sensibilities and media...

This isn't a new issue. Media like to be edgy, contraversy provacative. Corporate sensibilities is allergic to scandal or contraversy, especially of the "public morals" type.


nitpick: Yahoo paid $1 billion for Tumblr; Verizon/Oauth paid $5 billion for Yahoo, and it’s a bit difficult to guess how much of that is Tumblr.

(IMO they paid billions of dollars for the privilege of being the email provider for my parents.)


> they clearly don't understand what they bought.

I think they know exactly what they bought. They are going to see if they can change Tumblr. If that succeeds, great! If not, shut it down.

I bet the price of Yahoo including Tumblr and the price of Yahoo excluding Tumblr was more or less the same number.


> have been throwing money at it ever since (100s of millions)

Does it actually cost 100s of millions to run? They don't seem to be actively developing it or really doing anything with it other than banning all its content.


Reddit seem to be mainstreaming to some extent, nowhere near this though - perhaps they're navigating a better line?

Idk, I was no longer an active user when they did their user hostile redesign after lots of internal political struggle between conde nast and the volunteer mods that actually run the site. But sweet baby jesus is it bad now. While I used to drop by when linked in a relevant search query, i now know Ill just get a nagware screen and skip it altoghether. Yeah, I know I can switch to desktop mode and reload, but no thanks, I already got your message to me loud and clear. They did at least change more slowly, with gradual trimming of offensive content, and a better subbreddit containment system for those they are allowing to stay for now.

>Yeah, I know I can switch to desktop mode and reload, but no thanks, I already got your message to me loud and clear.

When a third-party developer can make a more user-friendly and less crash-prone app than your official one, it might be worth considering that maybe your official app sucks.


Gaah! Yahoo bought Tumblr, Oath/aol/verizon stupidly bought Yahoo for some reason. So Oath is desperate to put more ads on the hunk of junk that was Yahoo. But Oath should be concerned about all the other messy things they bought as Yahoo Inc.

While Tumblr have every right to have whatever terms of service they like, this feels like a bait-and-switch to me. People and communities have become accustomed to allowing NSFW stuff on Tumblr, and if Tumblr had forbidden this from the get go these people who have set up somewhere else and not on Tumblr.

What we need[1] is for social networks to be interoperable, with open data and protocols, so that a user can up sticks, move to a different site, and take their existing data (posts, images etc) with them and keep their followers.

1. As I have argued before, see https://cabalamat.wordpress.com/2018/08/30/dont-nationalise-...


I think you're pretty much describing Solid

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solid_(web_decentralization_pr...

Though I could be wrong. I never fully grokked Solid last time I read about it.


That and Mastodon, ActivityPub and IPFS are examples of the sort of thing I have in mind.

Also the decentralised flood-fill model of Usenet.


You can't move between Mastodon instances and keep your followers.

I'm envisaging something like mastodon, not something that is mastodon.

Can you tell me what you mean by flood-fill ? I'm looking at different strategies for sync'ing activity between domains, and ActivityPub / IPFS seem like a lot of conceptual overhead. I'd rather just rsync directories on my friends' servers.

> Can you tell me what you mean by flood-fill?

OK, imagine a load of servers. Each is connected to some (not all) of the others, and they all peer messages to each other.

     A -- B -- C -- D
          |    |
          E -- F -- H
          |
          G -- I

A message M is sent to one (say A). B asks A "have you got any new messages?" (or it might be A pushes them onto B) and A replies with M.

From B, M is sent to C and E. From E it is sent to F and G. Eventually it gets to all the servers on the network.

I envisage that each message would have a unique ID consisting of a cryptographic hash of its contents and timestamp.


"it’s often hard to see why LGBTQ content gets flagged as NSFW – although the underlying reason is, of course, homophobia and transphobia.*

I think you need to start with the impossible, define porn/nsfw.

Why is lingerie provacative and bikinis aren't? Why is nudity even a problem? Why nipples and not elbows... Ultimately, this stuff is the very definition of subjective... something that is entirely determined by perception. What is and isn't "safe for work" is constantly changing. Taboos allow dishonesty to continue.

Call it homophobia if you like, but I call the whole thing conservatism.

Personally, I think our rapidly changed attitudes about homophobia and transgenderism is closely related to sexual liberalism generally. Without online porn, gay culture could easily have stayed closeted.


When I was a teen my favourite joke was, "people with foot fetishes are lucky. To them, every beach is a nude beach."

Really does apply here. It's increasingly absurd to define what's sexually explicit as our society becomes increasingly liberal about our sexuality.

It was easier back when there was a very narrow definition of heterosexuality, leaving everything else to be homosexuality and/or some form of "perversion". We're basically dealing with the propagation of those attitudes forwards through time.


viewing lgbtq stuff would definitely get you fired(and probably worse) in the middle east,russia and most of south east asia. tumblr is a global site remember?

I wouldn't label the algorithm as anti-porn. I'd label it "how to lose user base and drive the company to a hole" algorithm. It's not likely that it detects actual porn, it's basically failing miserably and the result is abandonment. That's what you get when you want to be PC and yet another "me too, I do cool stuff too" company. There are lessons to be learned here, and for that - thank you Tumblr :)

> That's what you get when you want to be PC

I'd hardly consider this "trying to be PC".

https://i.imgur.com/cgGx4JR.png

This is more about bowing down to America's backwards views on sex and nudity, most likely in order to appease advertisers and/or Apple.


I can't imagine the advertisers being too hot on literal nazism and white supremacism, though. At least I hope not.

It seems to me that boards are way more sensitive on female breasts then on white supremacism.

Well, you wouldn’t think so, but a lot of the anger on Tumblr the past few days has been that they’re destroying major communities (more than just NSFW; they deleted everything tagged with “chronic pain”, for goodness sake, and how is that relevant?), but leaving all the Nazis alone.

Deleting "chronic pain" posts makes sense if Tumblr is trying to eliminate drug-related posts with as much cleverness and grace as the porn purge. (Chronic is uncommon slang for marijuana.)

Chronic pain is also closely link with opiod abuse.

> and/or Apple

Apple has nothing to do with this. Tumblr was removed from the app store specifically because of child porn; plus, if the anonymous sources are to be believed, Tumblr have been working on this for >6 months, predating the app store snafu.


> That's what you get when you want to be PC

I don't understand this statement. Tumblr's user base, at least the portion who disagree with the site operators on this, are usually the ones accused of being “politically correct”?


I think the statement meant the company is trying to enforce PC, starting with porn, to the detriment of the existing userbase.

It's as dumb a move as you can possibly make; I don't know what the decisionmakers behind were smoking, but it must have been something strong.


I know what they meant, I'm confused at the accusation of it being politically correct.

You're not confused, and you felt the irony in my post. I wrote it's trying to be PC, and I didn't touch base upon what PC actually means - it's a broad term, different in everyone's eyes. Yes, Tumblr is bowing down to someone's standards, I called that PC, you are bothered by that statement - let's agree we disagree but you got the big picture and that's what matters.

That's fair, tumblr is very much being politically correct in that sense. I'm just so used to it being a right-wing insult against basically anything leftist.

Politics wakes strange bedfellows. There is no single coherent definition of acceptable behavior. All corners raise hell for what they consider unnacceptable. PC isn't exclusively left-wing.

... Wait, what do you think PC _means_?

I'm not sure anyone knows what PC means anymore.

It's beige, got a Turbo button in front, and keyboard connector in the back. Wait...wrong decade?

I mean, it's been pretty much the same if you ignore all of the people going "LMAO IM AN ATTACK HELICOPTER" and the like whenever anyone even mentions a social issue

That is a weak strawman. There is absolutely legit debate on the subject.

The origins are pretty clear: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_correctness

However lately, those on one side of the political spectrum in America have co-opted it to paint the other side as overly sensitive/weak etc. muddying it's original intent, often using "concern trolling" to rile up debate.

Examples: Sexual harassment, blackface


It would be quite humorous, and also quite telling of the experience of those implementing this, if it turned out to be classic class imbalance during training.

If 90% of the training dataset is nsfw, and you train a classifier naively on that dataset, and your test and validation data is 90% nsfw, then 90% accuracy is very easy.


I would really, really like to know what they are doing. Was it an in-house solution, something from a startup, or something from an established enterprise tech company?

One of the things I’ve been saying repeatedly is that companies are going to implement machine learning incorrectly, and there will be obvious failures and blow ups, but the most dangerous and catastrophic failures will be a cascade of things that look like they work correctly. In this case, Tumblr implemented something that was blatantly obviously broken. That’s just pathetically poor management.

In the next 10 years, I would give high odds of least 1 company in the s&p 500 will fail due to bad machine learning implementation(s.)


  > from an established enterprise tech company
My first guess, based on basically nothing at all, was that this was an IBM Watson project. 0.3 seconds of Googling found that IBM has already published a case study on their website about Verizon using Watson. So, I'm going to go with that.

https://www.ibm.com/case-studies/verizon


They previously implemented a flag feature that users could use to mark NSFW content. That was in 2017. I doubt there’s any ML, it’s probably just people flagging everything for the fun of it.

Oh god...I remember my first project I just ran an ML algorithm against the dataset, got high accuracy, boasted to colleagues, and then explored the dataset only to realize it was highly unbalanced. So embarrassing.

Tumblr is dead. I give it three months before it's forgotten by the majority of its former user base.

So the question is where will that userbase go, now might be the time to position yourself to accept them if you're a similar site .. I probably wouldn't be here [on HN] if Slashdot/Digg/etc. hadn't screwed up in the past.

It seems that most people are going:

- Twitter - Pillowfort - Wordpress - Mastodon

depends a lot on what the user was into posting.

I'm also seeing quite a few more people operating on multiple sites at once now, even SFW blogs. So they'll post Tumblr, Pillowfort, and Wordpress at the same time so their former users can still see them.


I want to believe Newgrounds can recapture a large amount of illustrators who have Patreon accounts and large amounts of work, because they have excellent categorization features and hosts both SFW/NSFW stuff.

There's only going to be one blog left, and it's going to be called "Bring back the porn".

Scrubs?

I do never used Tumblr but AFAICT porn is the most common contents, so i bet the major source of revenue...

BTW the neovittorian movement against sex in general (disguised in many form to health things, anti-pornography for pedagogic things, anti-prostitution because of racket, ...) it's a clear sign of our degradation as society.


I'm not sure it's a degradation of society. I think it's unhealthy, but the original Victorian era taboos didn't result in a degradation of society. In fact it appears to have given rise to something of a backlash against that kind of thinking culminating in the roaring 20's. Then the depression hit, and WWII, and in the aftermath of WWII female empowerment (women in the industrial workplace) there was a backlash movement against women to "put them back" in the home. But then the counter backlash of the 60's and 70's hit. We've spent the last ~120 years swinging the pendulum back and forth, I'm not sure this is anything else but a part of that same pattern.

[flagged]


Who's obsessed with food: someone who eats three times a day or someone who tries not to eat at all? A society with a healthy attitude towards sex will have prostitution and pornography, because sex is normal and part of being human. I would say that a society obsessed with repressing sexuality has issues.

[flagged]


> I know plenty of fat people who eat three times a day and are obsessed with food.

You're taking the analogy in the wrong direction. The point is that the person who is trying to stop eating is obsessed with food, not that "people who eat three times a day are never obsessed with food". The point is that sex is a part of life, and trying to stifle pornography and prostitution is as misguided and counterproductive as trying to stop eating.

> Prostitution and pornography are also markers for human trafficking.

And why is that? Because it's illegal and unregulated. You're accidentally making a circular argument here: it's illegal, therefore the actors in the industry tend to be Bad People, so they contribute to the degradation of society, therefore it should be illegal? Look at Prohibition, or the legalization of marijuana in the US. It's not the thing itself that leads to degradation, it's the unwillingness to be mature about it.


I don't buy your analogy at all. I think a sex obsessed culture is a result of an overly sexualized media. And it's not like I'm saying ban sex. I'm saying ban pornography and prostitution, which are abuses of sex.

> abuses of sex

I think that's where the breakdown is occurring here: this is ultimately a values-based judgment. There's nothing necessarily wrong with that, but I think both sides of this debate would do well to recognize that this will ultimately come down to one's own personal beliefs on the subject matter.

Put more explicitly: there are those who will consider pornography and prostitution immoral regardless of the specifics, and there are those who have no issues with it assuming it's regulated (and such regulations are strictly enforced/policed) so that only informed, consenting adults can take part. Convincing either of these individuals of the other's position is likely futile.


Again, you're making circular arguments in order to claim that pornography and prostitution are bad. You can't reasonably make these claims without also arguing that we should ban alcohol because Prohibition led to illegal smuggling runs and all sorts of crime. Prostitution is illegal, therefore it leads to human trafficking, therefore it should be illegal? How are you going to have rampant human trafficking in a transparent system that requires brothels to have licenses, undergo inspections, and empower their employees to report unfair/unsafe/unsavory business practices?

You also need to leave out your personal opinions about sex when it comes to this discussion. I noticed that you previously mentioned that one of the reasons women turn to pornography is because they are "out of options". That's not your decision to make. If an adult makes a personal choice to turn to pornography, it's not your place to go "but that's unsavory to me, let me protect you by making that profession illegal". You're imposing your own negative views of sex on everyone else. If you think participating in pornography is inherently degrading, you don't have to do it!


So what kind of media Vikings have in the past, when nearly nobody even know how to write/read? And even before in Celtic population? Did you know Halloween origin? Did you know that a traditional Celtic fest in which people of a village start to form semi-random couples and live together for an year, if it work they remain together if not another (semi-orgiastic) turn? Or ancient Roman's Baccanals? Or ancient Greeks orgy, often homosexual and/or pedophile?

You know what, it's a great idea to both reduce usage and create a terrible black market that brings far more harm than the original problem. Regulating vice is a very dangerous road to travel on. Your good intentions pave the path to hell.

At least we have a decent argument here. That regulating something might lead to even worse consequences. Then the discussion should be on which is worse, a world where it is made illegal, or a world where it is regulated, or a world where it is unregulated. Saying that regulating or making illegal something is bad is itself is a terrible argument.

How is pornography and prostitution different from homosexuality and marriage, that justifies making some wrong but not the others?

One could argue that Homosexuality is a genocide against the whole species, and marriage is degrading to the person made a slave to their own home.


Maybe, but we know well that prohibitionist does not work, instead generate worst things. We also know that "sexual abstinence" as "pushed" in some USA are result in a certainly RISE of STM and unwanted juvenile pregnancy then other area and especially other country in witch sexuality is normal part of school's programs...

The point is that sexuality is a natural part of our life so IMO we have to free is as much as we can instead of trying the classic Victorian style. The same is for alcohol, drugs (both legal and illegal), ...

Only switching from a somewhat sexual repressed country like Italy to more free countries like Sweden before, French now I see a big improvement in mean people satisfactions and awareness, Italian's watch far more porn and goes far more with prostitutes than Frenches or Swedish, just as an example.

I see child being different in more free countries than in others, for instance in Italy and UK I see children that are in medium like earthquakes, in Sweden and French they are far more calm again in medium but in Italy and UK parent's "watch and supervise" far more their children than Sweden or France.

long story short, use education, culture, not stick nor carrots to build a better world.


What? That's a huge stretch. Prostitution, for one, has been common in pretty much every culture throughout history, so I don't know what you think we're "degrading" from.

Are we just going to pretend that christian morality (in the general sense) doesn't exist and lots of people don't follow that morality? I don't see how that's a stretch unless you pretend that the morality of whole swathes of people are not valid because you have another set of morals. It's not a huge stretch at all.

Millions of people believing something does not automatically make that thing correct.

"Prostitution is a sign of the degradation of society" is a claim that requires evidence. I'm happy to hear whatever evidence you have. "Lots of other people think so" is not evidence.

Given that prostitution has existed in pretty much every historical culture we've been able to study, I'd like to know when and where the society that they all degraded from can be found.

(Incidentally, there's plenty of historical pornography as well, dating back at least to Rome IIRC, although of course it didn't really blow up until photographic reproduction became cheap and easy.)


Ask a whore, is she treated kindly by all her johns? Is she respected by everyone? And are childless, unmarried women depressed and unwanted?

Migrant labor is not a sign of degradation either, but it leads to many to disrespect others in increasing fashions, where men are more likely to abuse their power over others.


Sure, there are a lot of labor/social issues around prostitution. We should try to fix those instead of sweeping them under the rug as we currently do.

That's irrelevant to the claim "prostitution is a sign of the degradation of society."


Perhaps Christianity is the degradation of society. The United States was founded with an explicit attempt to get religion out of government, until the Great Awakening gave a rebirth to a cancer in our democracy. Even conservative Republicans like the Reagan/Bush team were terrified of the influence of the radical Christian movement.

Ones morality is the justification for every atrocity.

I'll assume every morality is invalid. Instead base ones intent on the harms their actions cause.


> I'll assume every morality is invalid. Instead base ones intent on the harms their actions cause.

Assessment of harms depends on a value system; you can't escape the need to choose a morality.


The problem comes not from assuming your chosen morality is wrong, but from demanding that your morality is right.

When your choice of morality affects more then a few close people, it is by definition unjust.


I'm sure the upload filters the EU wants to mandate will be every bit as successful as this, in terms of the number of false positives.

Why not just make ads show on SFW content and have some sort agreement with advertisers. It's not like google has to block everything or maybe they have privilege.

I'm not sure how this proves the algorithm is doing a poor job. Any NSFW classifier is going to have a non-trivial error rate. Tumblr hosts LOTS of images. So if you have a non-trivial error rate and multiply it by LOTS of images you are going to get LOTS of images being misclassified incorrectly. It's not surprising someone was able to write a story about a bunch of images being misclassified. This doesn't seem to tell us anything about whether the algorithm has a high error rate or not.

In this case, the ultimate arbiters are the users of the service. Judging by their feedback so far, it is doing a poor job (and it doesn't matter if it's state of the art etc - that just means that our state of the art algorithms are that bad).

tumblr's announcemnt about removing nsfw content got flagged,i'd say the algo is trash

Since we don't have any real stats we can't classify how well the algorithm is doing, one important thought though is how the algorithm is designed.

If you got a good filtering method you can either optimize for a false positive rate or a false negative rate. Let's compare it to a simple spam filter (because if you look at it objectively that's all it is) would you rather have spam in your inbox or loose mails to your spam filter? Spam filter (normally) prioritize a high false negative so you have less spam, but don't loose content. Having a filter that obviously has a high false positive rate is just bad for the content creators (on which tumblr depends)


Maybe it's a good classifier by some measure but the error rate is clearly way too high for indiscriminately deleting everything it detects to be a good idea, and that is exactly what Tumblr plans on doing in 2 weeks. Randomly deleting posts that in no way violate the rules is going to piss a lot of people off even if "only" 5% of posts are affected.

This is kind of an inherent problem with automated moderation tools. And not new to Tumblr either, there is some sort of mysterious spam filter applied to the ask system that results in a lot of legitimate messages not being sent that people have complained about for ages.

And maybe my dash is not a representative sample but there really does seem to be a huge number of misclassified posts.


If you want to take a fatalistic view of it... go a certain step further.

multiply it by LOTS of images you are going to get LOTS of images being misclassified and lots of complaints/mockery.

Also context, Tumblr users are being censored in ways they weren't previously and the censor is an error prone machine. This isn't the same thing as implementing nsfw filters to Google search.


You have my upvote, but at the same time, Tumblr doesn't know this? What is their communication strategy for taking the wind off of people and articles making fun of them?

I wonder how successful demanding self-classification would be? I'd imagine it would be better than an AI, and you could have user-reporting, AI monitoring, random employee sampling, SERPs monitoring to catch those who purposefully misclassified and apply the ban-hammer.

Artificial stupidity combined with corporate stupidity, it's predictably not going to end well.

I feel like the discourse might be missing the point, starting at why we are here: Tumblr was removed from the App Store. Tumblr is a website but without a doubt it thrives on being a mobile app on iPhones and iPads. This ended up happening because of course the NSFW content on Tumblr is notable, even if we don't know the actual scale. Lots of pornbots and what not.

What concerns is this: Well and good that Apple says "we don't host pornographic communities on our app store" and Oath immediately sacrificed the lamb to appease Apple. How is this a problem after so long? What if I told an Apple executive the exact same content manifests in Twitter and Reddit?

Evidently the app stores have no interest in hosting NSFW artists and the open web should step up.


I read a lot of posts on Reddit bemoaning Tumblr's decision to stop carrying adult content. A lot of people there and here feel that this decision spells the end of the company. That may be the case, but I never understood how Tumblr was profiting from hosting all that adult content to begin with. I presume they're selling ads, in which case disassociating themselves from anything that could be considered pornographic seems like reasonable business logic.

I'm not questioning whether Tumblr's decision is fair, or morally right or wrong. I just don't see how Tumblr was generating enough revenue to cover their costs to begin with. Is image hosting really that cheap?


AT&T carries way more of it than any individual website serves, but nobody complains because they're generally thought of as a pipe that is at worst absent. If a social platform can get the coveted "at worst absent," perception in place, nobody will blame them, and by extension nobody will blame the advertisers. That's why it was against the rules (so to speak) for the media to hop on YouTube for the "Nazi" videos: the only reason any of these platforms can get by at all is because we agree not to blame them for what they host. If we stopped doing that we would end up with three or four sanitised news websites, and at most eight mainstream entertainment websites. jokes.com would make a killing.

"Amusingly" this is almost exactly what EU Article 11 & 13 are likely to result in (for slightly different reasons). One can but hope sense is seen soon.

disassociating themselves from anything that could be considered pornographic seems like reasonable business logic

We will see if their revenue and profit go up or down. Then we'll know if it's the right decision or not.


Keep in mind Reddit users also predicted the death of Reddit during the pao/banning fiasco. It's only grown since then.

False. That was the beginning of the end. https://www.alexa.com/siteinfo/reddit.com

Your link only goes back to the beginning of 2018. Pao left in 2015.and your link is comparing overall rankings of websites. That in no way tells you anything about redditt's traffic growth.

https://www.statista.com/chart/11882/number-of-subreddits-on...


The banning of completely legal and non-controversial content didn't stop with Pao. That was the start. It's only accelerated. And that's what you see in the stats. Reddit is down in popularity since 2015.

They abandoned their userbase and are attempting to bootstrap up into a gentrified facebook clone with new emphasis on personal identity (ie, having people post to their user profile pages instead of subreddits, and the implementation of commercial ad "personal" profiles like u/washingtonpost).

And luckily for them in 2016 a partisan political issue finally provided motivation for people to leave Facebook for other sites. This explains your observations about number of subs.


If you make that assertion please provide data in the form of graphs or tables. All I said was pao left in 2015, and during that time I remember Reddit users predicting it would go there way of digg. It didn't.

Grown != profiting.

That's not the point. People predicted a mass exodus of users, and it didn't happen. Whether they're profitable or not is different.

Conversely, you business can shrink and profits can go up if you make more money per user. This thread was only about users.


Static content is extremely cheap to host. I would compare it to S3 costs.

Not sure how Tumblr is doing things these days, but for a long time it literally was S3 costs, as that's where all the media was being served from.

My feeling is that this may be the breakthrough moment for Mastodon.

I don't think there will be one single moment. Every stumble from a big silo leads to a huge burst of growth and a return to a slightly higher norm. It's more likely this slow transfer of users will continue until the narrative is more "Mastodon finishes off [x]" for each one and less "users are fleeing [x] for Mastodon".

Tumblr/Twitter/Facebook/etc are going to die the same way malls do. One decade they're a big deal, the next people's slow shift in preferences make them irrelevant. At least they won't leave rotting husks this time.


I can't see how an average Tumblr user is aware of Mastodon.

Even of the ones who are, a lot of are turned off by the UI

Is there an example where a centralized commercial service was successfully replaced by a more open, federated service?

The electronic mail that came before SMTP would be a good example.

Email is a good example and somebody else mentioned the web in general.

I think the big difference there is that there are game changing advantages to end users being able to send email anywhere and to access all of the web rather than what was essentially one web site.

Federating Tumblr (and Twitter with Mastodon) seems like a lateral move at best. The worst case is that it makes it harder to use and so it might even be a step backwards.


The web replaced AOL and other dial-up portals.

And Microsoft repeatedly tried to stuff the genie back in the bottle in the early years by centralizing the portal, and then the technologies, unsuccessfully.

"This is going to be the year of Mastodon."

Sounds oddly familiar.


Followed closely by "This is the year of Linux on the desktop", I imagine.

This "article" was clearly done only to gain page views using the ongoing tumblr topic regarding adult content removal. The implication that company decision was done to oppress the LGBT community by algorithm automated actions is ridiculously sad but again, helps pumping the hype and virtual anger. Author didn't take the effort of thinking about possible reasons why algorithm works around NSFW content in such way but instead already judged that tumblr is going after LGBT (+ whatever else comes in that string of characters; I couldn't care less - it's enough that I'm somehow a part of that community but it's like with least liked family member - you really don't wanna see it or interact with) community and we should all care because this is an "problematic" issue. The victim card is being placed on the table.

After seeing around what topics the author revolves the overall tone of this "journalism" example is not surprising.

I did back-up my tumblr, I'm waiting for reliable platform to emerge where I could post cat pictures, funny and not always politically correct images and whatever else.


There was another post here a week or two ago about an image processing algorithm that turned everything into blurry genitalia. Could it be related?

edit: Found it. I'm not the only one who wondered if this was the case! New comment in that thread: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18601287


Why are or why can advertisers be so inflexible with the concept of the internet containing nsfw content?

Because society hasn't wised up to the fact bloggers and news are doing to social media the equivalent of what parent- and religous groups did to box TV and movies into well-defined bounds for allowed content.

My Tumblr blog of 2 years (future-tech) with 20K followers was summarily terminated today. There is no NSFW content on it. The termination happened shortly after I started protesting Tumblrs new policy. I did notice, however that some benign posts were incorrectly flagged as NSFW.

Why does the author seem to suggest that the nazis are less affected by this than pictures of furniture?

I'd argue that they are since searches for some "adult" terms are now censored but searches for nazi terms are not.

For example:

https://www.tumblr.com/search/breast/recent

https://www.tumblr.com/search/nsfw/recent

vs.

https://www.tumblr.com/search/1488/recent

https://www.tumblr.com/search/heil+hitler/recent

https://www.tumblr.com/search/sieg+heil/recent

edit: Image of other examples in case you don't want to actually go to tumblr's website.

https://i.imgur.com/cgGx4JR.png


Tumblr also allows me to search for raygold and PTHC does that mean they approve of child pornography now?

I don't believe that the fact that they've restricted a pretty small set of porn-related keywords suggests that furniture is more likely to be caught by tumblrs filters than nazi content, which is the claim the article appears to make.


I think the point is to highlight the "sex is worse than Nazis" logic behind this prioritization.

Yeah, I get that. But the article seems to specifically claim that "the site’s contingent of Nazi bloggers remains relatively unscathed" in the face of the anti-porn algorithm as opposed to "LGBTQ blogs, selfies, cartoon animals, and pictures of furniture" which are "definitely suffering".

I think the reality is that someone important somewhere went on tumblr and said "hey we can't advertise on this, there's porn everywhere!", rather than them trying to filter things out in order of unpleasantness.

Didn't they just have their app removed from Google's Play Store for the presence child porn on their platform? I think the point might be that they cannot reasonably be expected police their platform to determine what porn is and is not acceptable. Surely there is going to be a lot of porn posted that is crazy unacceptable, and I'm sure they don't want to have to sift through it all to discern what is what.

I am actually surprised porn is a big thing they are known for, considering their platform is aimed at kids/adolescents?


Perhaps nazis are less affected by this than pictures of furniture?

The rest of the article seems to suggest that everything is affected, then she casually mentions that nazis are less affected.

Is she deliberately accusing tumblr of punishing everyone but nazis? Why is that not the headline then?


I'm glad Tumblr existed (not just for porn) but I hope this kills them. What a huge stab in the back to their community, it should not go unpunished.

Tumblr is truly dead without NSFW stuff. Nobody cares for anything else in it (except you and 10 others, outlier, to pre-empt your reaction).

Not sure what's the controversy here. Here's a Medium post on the same idea: https://medium.com/futuresin/tumblrs-porn-ban-could-kill-it-...

well, looks like my old automated tumblr works fine http://apologiseinsincerely.tumblr.com/ - I was worried some of the robots carrying women would look bad, or some image manipulations might resemble something they weren't.



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