Tumblr’s wonky algorithm is flagging innocent posts as adult content

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National Library of Norway via arthistorianmindswirs/Tumblr

Tumblr announced on Monday that it would be taking action against NSFW content starting December 17. Without initiating anyone or removing posts altogether, the platform begins flagging all posts that violate their new guidelines; The content is hidden from everyone but the original author.

Posts breaking the new rules? Any image, GIF, or video depicting a sexual act, as well as full frontal nudity and “female nipples.” The guidelines state that nudity for educational, medical or protest purposes as well as non-sexual artworks will not be reported. If you’re not a NSFW blogger and don’t care about NSFW stuff, that shouldn’t be a problem, right?

Well, therein lies the problem: Tumblr’s algorithm is sloppy.

It is so negligent that completely harmless posts appear as reported. It seems that the post could be flagged as inappropriate if it is vaguely flesh-colored or human-shaped. All the pretty fan art? Brand.

That comforting moment Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood? Nothing for young eyes.

Although Tumblr insisted that art and sculpture be protected, its algorithm says otherwise.


Even if the content does not contain people, it is suspicious.



Numerous posts depicting LGBTQ people were also reportedly flagged. This and likely other family-friendly content flagged as objectionable appears to be the result of algorithmic incompetence of a willful act on the part of Tumblr. Labeling has been extremely inconsistent across the board, but nothing can be confirmed.

Oh so poetic and ironic, an article about censorship bots accidentally declaring desert images as porn was also reported.


To be clear, flagging does not mean removing the post or blocking the user. A real Blog Page doesn’t display banners; it’s only on the board from now on. It’s a warning when the guidelines drop, and the blog owners who originally posted the content can contest the flags.

However, given the many false positives, the impending launch of political news is worrying, even for those who don’t post a lot of NSFW content.

We reached out to Tumblr to find out the false positives their tagging algorithm is generating and if they plan to adjust the algorithm and will update it if necessary.

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Source : polygon.com

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