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The Collateral Damage of Tumblr’s Porn Ban

(Source: theatlantic.com)

Read: Is porn culture to be feared?

Just as black Twitter gave voice and audience to black writers, Tumblr created the space for sexually nonnormative people to see and be seen in ways they weren’t elsewhere. There were Tumblrs for those who identify as bears, furries, HIV-positive, bisexual, disabled, and fat; for people into S&M, pegging, and group masturbation. Whatever your body type or fetish, there was probably a Tumblr community for you.

And this brings us to two problems that go well beyond Tumblr and the legal but still widely condemned sexual activities featured on it. The first is that Tumblr’s adult communities—like the platform writ large—are driven not just by amateur, user-generated uploads, but by the curation efforts of committed volunteers. Come December 17, when adult content is made private and un-shareable, these communities will effectively be shut down, their collectiveness made digitally homeless.

This is the end point of user-generated content on any social-media platform: When people create content that has social benefit for them, it makes massive capital benefit for Silicon Valley and Wall Street. Yet the people who generate that wealth have no influence over the digital commons where it resides and no recourse if they’re evicted from it. The commons are, after all, privately owned—never really commons to begin with.

And here comes a second fact that the Tumblr fiasco exposes: how interwoven our intimate encounters, desires, and relationships (including, but not limited to, sexual matters) are with digital platforms. Consider how much of your personal and professional life experiences may be integrated with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tinder. Now consider that these companies could swiftly and legitimately shut their platform down, and sell all of your images and words for a trillion dollars. And you’d get no money and have no legal recourse.

Why is this so broadly dangerous? Because it’s not easy to opt out of using digital platforms, which are becoming as important as physical roads for human interaction. Professional, commercial, and even the sexual interactions that literally determine life itself are mediated through these privately controlled communications networks. And as the power of these networks is consolidated, the people who’ve built them up but who are deemed a threat to maximum profit—even as collateral damage in a purge of illegal material—will be jettisoned.

For there is a “larger, disturbing trend,” as the New York Times Magazine writer Jenna Wortham put it, “indicative of troubling, invisible heteronormative morality clauses on the web that we are all likely [to] enable and/or are complicit in enabling.” In March, Craigslist closed its “adult personals” section in response to a pair of bills, the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act and the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act, that would hold platforms criminally responsible for any sex work facilitated through them. Facebook has also rolled out restrictive new community standards, which aim to “draw the line—when content facilitates, encourages or coordinates sexual encounters between adults,” dissuade people from discussing certain sexual preferences or positions, and forbid “sexualized slang” or “sexualized language.”

More Info: theatlantic.com

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