Adult Tumblr blogs now removed from every form of search possible

Adult Tumblr blogs now removed from every form of search possible

Summary: Rather than leave adult content alone Yahoo's Tumblr has eliminated its Erotica category, disabled search engine indexing for adult blogs, and removed adult Tumblrs from all internal search. Users are furious. UPDATED.


When Yahoo bought Tumblr, it suggested that its adult and porn blogs would be left alone.

Users found out this wasn't true when a new adult blog search policy went public on Thursday, capping Tumblr's quarantine on adult content, which now also includes excluding adult blogs from Google, Bing, Yahoo, and other search engines.

UPDATE Sunday, July 21: Read After backlash, Yahoo's Tumblr quietly restores adult, NSFW blogs

tumblr porn crackdown

The changes render an estimated 10% of Tumblr's userbase invisible and unfindable.

Now, around 12 million Tumblr blogs marked "adult" have been removed from Tumblr's internal search; this follows the revelation two months ago that adult blogs were no longer indexed by Google, and the pre-sale removal of Tumblr's "Erotica" category from its category index.

Tumblr's "Erotica" category had been launched in January 2010 with much sex-positive fanfare - it would appear that the days of Tumblr's tolerance are long gone.

The change to its content restrictions came two months after press heard Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer say in May that Tumblrs which aren't "brand safe" - alluding to porn and adult blogs - would be left alone.

Removal from search in every way possible is the closest thing Tumblr could do to deleting the blogs altogether, without actually removing 10% of its user base.

Under Tumblr’s new rules, adult-rated blogs and their posts will no longer show up in tags, period. Tags are the way blogs are searched, and found, on Tumblr.

The only way to find a post from a blog marked adult - or to find and discover adult blogs - is to receive the link directly, such as if another user reblogs a post, you are already following the blog, or you are sent a direct link.

Blogs removed from both Tumblr and Google, Bing, Yahoo! Search

To say that Tumblr users are angry would be the understatement of the year.

The removal from internal search cuts off the adult blog user from the rest of the Tumblr community; since Tumblr has enabled robots.txt and inserted the rule (Disallow: /) that tells search engines not to search pages on all Tumblr adult blogs, the adult blog user is now cut off from Google search as well.

In fact, that rule prohibits all standards-compliant search engines from indexing the blogs, a list that includes Google, Ask, AOL, Baidu, Bing and Yahoo.

Longtime sex blogger "Bacchus" of Eros Blog - who is not a Tumblr user - discovered two months ago that Tumblr had quietly made it so all blogs marked as "adult" are now omitted from Google search, cut off from the rest of the Internet.

Tumblr users were not made aware of the fact that adult blogs are not indexed by Google no matter what preference the user has expressed.

He wrote (link NSFW),

I’ve discovered that Tumblr uses robots.txt to bar all search engine access to blogs flagged as adult. If you’ve got an adult Tumblr, go look at your own settings.

Do you see that first checkbox, the one that says “allow search engines to index your blog”? It’s nicely checked, it’s not greyed out, but if your blog is flagged “adult” it’s a lie.

To answer the question “What happens to blogs that are flagged NSFW or Adult?” Tumblr offers this handy chart. The key piece of information is the white space indicated by my red superimposed arrow:


That’s right - where the “Blog indexed by Google” row intersects the “Adult Blogs” column, we find a ringing silence.

This means if a user runs a blog marked "adult" wants to publicize a fundraiser, get the word out about life changes, post about sex ed with non-illustrated images, share a favorite brownie recipe, or share news about their experiences at a protest, these posts will not show up on either Tumblr's search engine or Google.

Of course, Tumblr is able to flag a user's account as adult regardless of the user's consent.

This news all comes on the same day that Tumblr's iOS update for Apple rolled out changes that remove search results for #gay, #lesbian and #bisexual (though leave #bi, #lgbt and #queer intact).

This appears to be in conforming with Apple's anti-adult policy, though the unfairness of the characterization and effect on Tumblr's community is making its LGBT users see even more red.

There were already ways to block porn on Tumblr if users don’t want to see it, such as Tumblr's Safe Search and Tumblr Savior. The complete elimination from all forms of search is absolutely overkill.

Tumblr doesn't seem to care and this flies in the face of what Tumblr CEO David Karp told The Colbert Report Wednesday night.

As reported in The Tumblr Porn Crackdown Is Here (The Atlantic), Karp told Stephen Colbert:

We've taken a pretty hard line on freedom of speech, supporting our users, creation, whatever that looks like, it's just not something we want to police.

When you have somebody like Terry Richardson, or any number of talented photographers, posting tasteful photography, I don't want to have to go in there and draw the line between this photo and this behind the scenes photo of Lady Gaga and her, uh, her nip.

Now Karp just looks like an idiot, and Yahoo looks like it's completely untrustworthy.

So basically, Facebook is having a good week.

Let's just hope that Yahoo's new Tumblr isn't as free and easy with slapping on "adult" content flags as Yahoo's Flickr.

UPDATE: At approximately 9am PST Friday July 19, Tumblr's rep emailed me with a statement. Because it is the exact same statement (copy/pasted into its email to me) that Tumblr sent to The Daily Dot - seen in its article Tumblr Doesn't Care How You Feel About Its Porn Crusade - it answers questions specific to Daily Dot's article, and not this article. It does not make sense to reproduce Tumblr's statement here.

UPDATE: Friday July 19, 6:30pm - Tumblr staff have put up this post, which addresses a glitch - and a fix - with its search for NSFW blogs. The post also explains that the tag blocking around terms #gay, #lesbian and #bisexual have to do with blocking porn, a categorization that is angering LGBT people. Tumblr does not say why it started doing this.

Tumblr's post mentions "adult" blogs in the opening sentence, but does not go on to address the actual issue: the de-indexing of "adult" blogs, the issue with robots.txt, the removal of its "Erotica" category or the issue of walling off a significant population of its users based on content - a change from Tumblr's pre-sale sex-positive ways (such as when it launched the Erotica category in 2010).

Tumblr only mentions "NSFW" blogs, a category that is treated differently.

The post addresses 'concerns about Tumblr censoring' content, but the issue is not censorship. The issue is de-indexing.

Topics: Censorship, Apple, Mobile OS

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Werido

    Faith-hope Isabel-Rowe
    • dex

      Sadly, this mirrors real life politics. When you can't win the game one way, just keep changing the rules until all the other players leave thus making you the eventual winne
    • TUMBLR

      You total sick idiots. Children access this porn. I know this because my daughter have done so. You are for this given you are what paedophiles? I hate tumblr with a passion. It teaches children how to self harm using 'triggers' including encouragements to suicide and self harm.. If you sick perverted fcuks want porn find another source that children don't use or access.
      • Calm thyself

        Firstly, I want to let you know, TraceF1, that I understand where you are coming from. There is a lot on tumblr that I know parents don't want their kids to see, and going from how you talk about that Tumblr teaches kids to self harm, and tells them about triggers, yeah, people use Tumblr as an output for their agony. Many of the kids that use Tumblr don't have any other way to get out what they feel. I know this because I am one of those people that don't know exactly how to talk about how I feel, or get out the, for lack of a better word "madness" that I can have inside of me.
        I understand that you don't want your daughter learning how to sell harm there, but honestly, if anyone wanted to self harm, you don't have to be a rocket scientist to hurt yourself, you don't have to google "how to self harm" or use a blog site to do so, you just know how to hurt yourself. So I'm going to say that your argument on that bit is bad. Tumblr is not a bad site because it teaches self harm, Tumblr is a good site because it's an outlet for all people's agony. The fact that there are some really messed up people out there contribute to the world as a whole being bad, not just Tumblr, which you are using yourself as an outlet toward your sadness for your daughter, Instead of sadness for her, though, it's anger at Tumblr.
        I use this site to talk about my day, ask people to talk with me, and be more social than I otherwise could be outside of the internet. To me, Tumblr is a great outlet for creation and art, since it's primarily where I post my art. Sure, the porn aspect of Tumblr gets to be insane, but that's not just Tumblr, that's the whole internet. Like I said before, If anyone wanted to get their hands on porn, or learn how to "self harm" (if you even need to look that up) all they have to use is google. You talk about using a source that children don't use, you should get on google's butt about that, since it's one click to take off safes earch, and one more click for a link to almost ever single porn site available. As tumblr is, it has a minimum age restriction of 13 years old. While that's a pretty low number, a 13 year old is a teenager. Any nsfw (primarily porn) blog should also have a warning for the user to need to be over the age of 18 to enter, much like google does. If your daughter, or any child, is spending their time looking up porn, and wanting to self harm, i think that's a parenting problem, and not a tumblr blog problem. So stop bitching about the internet, and blaming other people for what's happening.
        I can't tell you how to live your life past the point of the internet, and this is mostly just to tell you that Tumblr can be an extremely uplifting encouraging place, and if a user is self harming, it's not because of tumblr, but because of something in their personal life that is pushing them that way. No amount of yelling at "sick perverted fcuks" and "paedophiles" on the internet is going to change what's going on with your daughter.
        • .

          Nice one kegstiki, I completely agree.

          I had a really horrible time as a kid/teenager and I developed issues with eating and self harm. It was blog by people in similar situations as myself that taught me harm reduction and offered resources and words of encouragement to stop the behavior.

          Maybe things would have been better for myself (and a lot of other people) if there had been more body positive sex blogs and less female hating sites like youporn and redtube.
      • your comment is wrong.

        Well don't blame the site because your daughter was been searching inappropriate stuff on the internet. That's why you use safe mode. Or parenting access. You don't know what people go through when they feel Depression, when a parent is selfish. Young people this days suffer from suicidal thoughts, Depression, self harm,and Eating Disorder. So what to be a better parent watch your kid. and stop blame your mistakes on websites. Oh and they DON'T encourage anything I listed above, they try to help them out. Something you need to learn. Coming from a person Tumblr was helped. Goodbye.
  • Well, who didn't see this coming?

    It was obvious from the get go that Yahoo! was going to do everything it could to 'sanitize' Tumblr.

    She probably has more tricks up her sleeve, like charging $19.99 per year to access anything Yahoo!s puritanical mind perceives as being unsavoury - and if that doesn't work, require a signed affidavit cosigned by four grandparents attesting that you're 'disturbed' enough to gain access.

    Sadly, this mirrors real life politics. When you can't win the game one way, just keep changing the rules until all the other players leave thus making you the eventual winner.

    Sure, the money wonks like her first year, but lets see how well she does in years two and three. Personally I see a waterless Yahoo! desert with little or no life.
    Lost In Clouds of Data
  • This is how successful companies become irrelevant.

  • Come on Marissa Mayer....

    Just pust the ads and leave the blog alone.
    • Ads

      Adult services buy ads also. They're missing out.
  • Time to move the blogs to someplace else

    Seems like Yahoo has no idea what it's doing.
  • Hope many, many people move their blogs someplace else.

    If David Karp is going to put Terry Richardson in the "tasteful" column, then Im kinda glad that adult users will probably move their business elsewhere. Yuk:
  • DuckDuckGo

    Just sayin'.
    Tarquin Biscuitbarrel
    • Nope.

      DuckDuckGo still respects robots.txt files, as far as I know.
  • What about non-tumblr domains?

    Do the tumblr robots.txt changes affect blogs that use the tumblr backend but use their own domain name for the site?
    • Apparently it does
  • It's not really a big !

    I surmise that one day there will be a web.
    henri bellison
    • Not exactly..

      That's not how websites work. Any site in the world, if they wanted to, could create a subdomain of their site. The only reason everyone uses www is because it is standard. is how that would be implemented, and it already exists.
      Martin McCarthy
  • Hopefully at we saw it coming!

    We noticed there was no centralized place for people to learn more about sex so we created one!

    Sexycrets represents the largest sex tips online list with with more than 180 sexy desires written by real people and it is growing and improving every day to give our users a powerful tool for great sex life night after night.
    James Casanova
  • History repeating itself.

    Yahoo has done this with every property they've acquired. They did this to egroups and shut down all of the adult themed e-mail lists, then they did this with flickr and now tumblr. Why did this surprise anyone?
    C Scott Bragg