Tumblr’s decision to ban pornographic content from its own portal starting December 17th has caused turmoil in the industry. Now the Free Speech Coalition (FSC) and xHamster are also commenting on the process that is destroying the social media work of many performers, adult brands and studios on Tumblr.
The fallout from Tumblr’s ban on porn continues. After FanCentro’s passionate open letter to Tumblr, the tube site community xHamster and the interest group Free Speech Coalition also released scathing statements. The adult industry is faced with the challenge of stiffening legislative and corporate moves against its interests and business models.
xHamster’s VP, Alex Hawkins, released the following statement:
“When Tumblr banned porn, it demolished entire communities. Just as they have with Facebook and YouTube and Instagram and Patreon, sexual communities once again find themselves pushed to the margins and silenced.
What happens when Twitter bans adult performers or Reddit? Our community already maintains tenuous existence online, with shadowbanning and blocked accounts and suspensions with no explanation, no apology, and no recourse.
The rules are vague and selectively enforced. What you can post, and what you can monetize, are different if you are LGBTQ, or into BDSM or a sex worker. They are different you are a porn star, than if you are Kim Kardashian. (And oh! The irony in that!).
We have always considered ourselves a social network, as well as a tube site. We built in functionality like feeds and profiles and community interfaces. Our most valued users aren’t those who watch the most, but who use the site as their online home.
Now the closure of Tumblr and the foreseeable closure of the remaining sites present us with an imperative — to build out a truly adult social network. As we speak, we are reviewing our existing functionality, looking at our resources and looking at what we can do to create real social networks for those who work, love and thrive in our industry.
We invite adult performers, fans and activists who don’t already have profiles on the site to create them and begin helping us build. More importantly, to give us feedback on what and how we can build out xHamster to better serve the needs of the community.
We call on other sites to expand their capabilities as well. This isn’t about competition or market share, this is about using our power to provide a safe, stable, powerful platform to communicate with one another, and run their businesses.
Because it’s clear that the tech giants will never protect us. It’s only a matter of time.”
And here is the statement by the always combative FSC:
The social media platform Tumblr has announced that on December 17, it will effectively ban all adult content. Tumblr follows the lead of Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and other social media platforms, who over the past few years have meticulously scrubbed their corners of the internet of adult content, sex and sexuality, in the name of brand protection and child protection.
While some in the adult industry may cheer the end of Tumblr as a never-ending source of free content, specifically pirated content, it is concerning that of the major social media platforms, only Twitter and Reddit remain in any way tolerant of adult workers — and there are doubts as to how much longer that will last.
As legitimate platforms ban or censor adult content — having initially benefited from traffic that adult content brought them — illegitimate platforms for distribution take their place. The closure of Tumblr only means more piracy, more dispersal of community and more suffering for adult producers and performers.
Free Speech Coalition was founded to fight government censorship — set raids and FBI entrapment, bank seizures and jail terms. The internet gave us freedom from much that had plagued us, particularly local ordinances and overzealous prosecutors. But now, when corporate censors suspend your account, the only choice is to abandon the platform — there is no opportunity for arbitration or appeal.
When companies like Google and Facebook (and subsidiaries like YouTube and Instagram) control over 70 percent of all web traffic, adult companies are denied a market as effectively as a state-level sex toy ban. And when sites like Tumblr and Twitter can close an account with millions of followers without warning, the effect is the same on a business — particularly a small, performer-run one — as an FBI seizure.
As social media companies become more powerful, we must demand recourse, but we also must look beyond our industry and continue to build alliances — with women, with LGBTQ groups, with sex workers and sex educators, with artists — who implicitly understand the devastating effect of this new form of censorship.
These communities have seen the devastation wreaked when platforms use purges of “adult content” as a sledgehammer, broadly banning sexual health information, vibrant communities based around non-normative genders and sexualities, resources for sex workers and political and cultural commentary that engages with such topics.
The loss of these platforms isn’t just about business, it’s about the loss of vital communities and education — and organizing. We use these platforms not only to grow our reach but to communicate with one another, to rally, to drive awareness of issues of sex and sexuality. They have become a central source of power. And today, we’re one step closer to losing that as well.