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If Yahoo Buys Tumblr, What Will It Do With All That Porn?
By Joshua Brustein
May 17, 2013 2:23 PM EDT
Photograph by Scott Pommier/Gallery Stock

If Yahoo! succeeds in its attempt to acquire Tumblr, it will end up with one of the hottest Internet properties in today’s Web, with access to the coveted youth market and a foothold in mobile.

It will also wind up with a whole lot of porn.

Tumblr has many options for people interested in artsy photography or teenaged musings. Then there are Tumblrs with such names as We Want Porn, Above Average Porn, Defcon Porn, Porn Gif Haven, POV Porn, Porn and Weed, and When Tumblr porn goes wrong.

It will be fun to see how these are integrated into Yahoo News.

Tumblr’s terms of service are pretty clear: Sexual material is welcome. It just asks that such posts be tagged as NSFW, noting that its users include many people “from a variety of locations, cultures, and backgrounds with different points of view concerning adult-oriented content.” (And, presumably, some people who work in offices with open seating plans.) The one exception is that Tumblr does not want to host people’s pornographic videos. Even this seems to be more about bandwidth than morality.

“We’re not in the business of profiting from adult-oriented videos and hosting this stuff is … expensive,” the company explains.

Tumblr does have standards. It objects to bigotry, sexually suggestive content including minors, anything that promotes self-harm, or gore that is posted just to be shocking.

Tumblr’s actions reveal a slightly less permissive stance. Porn now makes up a smaller proportion of its traffic than it has in the past. Several years ago four of the top 10 subdomains on the site were pornographic, which many credited as a significant reason for the site’s growth. That’s not the case today, and Tumblr has shut down some of its more popular porn sites, citing violations of the company’s policies on spam. That this has been happening as Tumblr turns its focus from new users to new advertisers is probably not a coincidence.

Yahoo’s terms of service also warn users that they might encounter adult material in the company’s products, although it does so without using profanity. And like any service that includes user-generated content, Yahoo has had to deal with people indulging in sexual interests that not everyone would approve of.

But considering that Yahoo is ostensibly interested in Tumblr for the advertising, it’s hard to see the environment getting any friendlier for pornographers on the network. On the other hand, Yahoo may have to tread carefully with suggestive content. There are reasons why Tumblr is popular with young people. Prudishness is not high on that list.

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