Can banning adult content online keep children safe?

Tumblr bans adult content in era of greater regulations for internet companies and social network providers.

Lydia Morrish
Lydia Morrish NewsMavens, United Kingdom
Can banning adult content online keep children safe? - NewsMavens
Woman at computer, PixaBay

Why this story matters:

Tumblr, the micro-blogging website launched in 2007, has long been thought of by users as an open space for experimentation and expression.

After platform's filters failed to flag content containing child pornography, the site announced it would be begin banning images and videos that feature “adult content.”

But can a sweeping ban of all sexually explicit content keep young people safe when they're on the internet?

Critics of Tumblr's ban say the ban itself can't protect children. In order to do that, governments need to prioritize education on consent and sex instead of placing the responsibility on internet companies.

Details from the story:

  • Tumblr's ban on all porn apart from nudity that has a political or artistic quality will be effective from December 17, which is also the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers.
  • CEO Jeff D’Onofrio in a statement that while the Tumblr team had attempted to “create and enforce a policy that acknowledges the breadth of expression we see in the community”, without adult content, “we have the opportunity to create a place where more people feel comfortable expressing themselves.”
  • The ban is being seen as another blow for online communities in the wake of sweeping internet regulations that ban explicit sexual content. In the United States, FOSTA/SESTA rules ban websites from hosting adult content. Meanwhile, and Facebook’s new community guidelines prohibit all sexually explicit content, including erotic messages.
  • Critics say the ban will affect marginalized people, from LGBT people to sex workers, the most and impact future generations' exposure to sexualities that aren't considered the "norm".
  • “Tumblr was a wonderful space for all sorts of sub-communities of people with a sexuality that is somewhat different from the norm,” said Baltimore-based data scientist and former porn performer Dale Cooper. “It was really great for people to see lots of different types of bodies, but also different things those bodies could do to each other.”
  • The new rules won't inherently protect children from damaging adult content when it is still widely available on the internet via mainstream free porn websites.
  • Cooper said: “I find it troubling when sexually explicit media or things to do with sex are blanket banned. It’s throwing things on platforms rather than addressing core issues of consent and sex ed that can be addressed separately.”
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