On December 17, 2018, I was aware that Tumblr was instating a new adult policy on content on their platform. Tumblr is a social media venue that The Romance Studio has been happy and proud to use to help showcase our authors and the books in the romance genre that we love.
To be honest, I really didn’t think the new policy would have an impact on us.
I knew that it was a virtual doomsday for the fanfiction community with many lamenting the loss of their Tumblrs they’d held for years because of their NC-17 or stronger content. It went on for weeks before the end came and I watched many Tumblrs disappear, pulling the trigger on themselves before Tumblr could do it for them as they saw it.
As a parent, I understand. I’ve read articles that seem to suggest one of the many reasons that Tumblr changed their content policy was to prevent their platform from being used illegally or for the wrong reasons. They didn’t want their platform tied to or used for pornography or human trafficking. They didn’t want a situation where young people could post nudes of themselves and unwittingly place themselves in danger. I respect that and understand. When I read about the new policy, and read the policy itself, I thought that it would probably be a benefit really.
What actually happened?
Well, it’s interesting. Some of the titles we promote at TRS are more sensual. That’s always been true. TRS promotes romance of all types from sweet to hot stuff and all different types of relationships too whether they be strictly hero/heroine or a polyamorous triad or a same-sex couple. I’d read the content policy and I thought we might have an issue with a cover here and there on Tumblr when we post there from our big parties or as part of our promotions. I wasn’t going to be surprised by a case or two now and again.
What really happened was surprising.
The further I looked at all of the posts for TRS they’d flagged as violating their policy, the more surprised I became. Tumblr defines “adult content” as:
Adult content primarily includes photos, videos, or GIFs that show real-life human genitals or female-presenting nipples, and any content—including photos, videos, GIFs and illustrations—that depicts sex acts.
Okay. I get that.
But either their algorithm hasn’t had all of the nuances worked out yet or the algorithm is really sensitive. Some of the covers we’ve promoted don’t seem to fall into such categories. Many romance novel covers during my lifetime, and I’m not going to tell you how many years we’re talking about, have depicted couples in passionate embraces or kissing. Does it mean they are on the verge of sex, right there at that moment?
So where does Tumblr’s new policy leave romance writers?
Well, let’s start with what exactly happens. One logs into their Tumblr account and sees a stripe across the top alerting them that they have posts that potentially violate Tumblr’s content policy. The posts when they are flagged are immediately hidden from your Tumblr, visible only to you.
When you click on “Appeal”, you see a screen giving you potential options for how you wish to handle the situation. You can elect to appeal and wait for a human staff member of Tumblr to review your content. (Can you imagine that job right now?) You can elect to learn more and be taken to the new policy. If you choose to “Dismiss”, nothing happens. Your post is still sitting there only viewable by you.
Does TRS have a lot of “violations”? Oh, my yes. So we’ll select a post at random, and request an appeal and see how it goes.
Will this impact TRS using Tumblr as a promotional venue? Maybe. Depending on what happens with the appeal, we’ll need to make a decision about promoting there because if we find most of our posts are flagged as violations and having to appeal individual posts, that won’t be very effective when promoting new titles when they are released to our audience. So it’s a “wait and see” situation at the moment.
We’d love to hear your stories too.
The covers snagged by the policy displayed here? I selected the ones that really puzzled me from authors I know well and highly respect.
It’s not just us that are feeling the effects of Tumblr’s new boisterous porn-banning policy.
Romance novels and novelists have always been under fire for one reason or another. We’ve weathered worse storms than this.
We will survive.