Reports are coming in that Tumblr has begun (or ramped up) a crackdown on people who use Tumblr for adult marketing in ways that seem consistent with Tumblr’s community guidelines. Remember, those guidelines say:

Don’t use deceptive means to generate revenue or traffic, or create blogs with the primary purpose of affiliate marketing. Spam doesn’t belong on Tumblr.

Now comes word (and I’ve confirmed it) that there’s at least one adult link that you simply are not allowed to type on Tumblr. (Actually, you can type it, but then your save/publish button won’t work…) A link to this appeared in my Twitter feed:

Post Yahoo acquisition we’ve had several Extra Lunch Money (ELM) related Tumblr blogs removed (with no explanation given) and we’ve heard from other websites and sellers who’ve had their Tumblr blogs taken down as well. While Tumblr has always removed blogs (which they are completely within the right to do), we’ve noticed something more troubling. Tumblr is censoring links to certain adult websites from being published. Which adult website? Namely, extralunchmoney(.)com.

Wait. What’s ExtraLunchMoney(.)com?

ELM is a marketplace for amateur models to sell their own hand made adult movies, pictures, and more. It’s like Etsy, but a LOT naughtier.

How are they censoring ExtraLunchMoney(.)com?

If you try put in any link with “extralunchmoney(.)com” Tumblr will not allow you to save the post so you can publish it. Instead it will say “There was a problem saving your post” which is Tumblr speak for you’re not allowed to link to this website.

Even worse, you can’t even type out the word “extralunchmoney(.)com” in a post without using parentheses. You’ll get the same ”There was a problem saving your post” message.

Go ahead and try for yourself.

So I did. I created a brand new Tumblr blog and, as the very first post, I tried to save this:

tumblr error upon attempting to publish a censored link

Wow. So then I changed the “n” to an “r”. Extralurchmoney.com (the place to buy and sell your zombie-themed goods?) saves just fine on Tumblr.

Back to the report:

It’s also not limited to posts. If you want to update your blog side bar to say for example “I help run this site called extralunchmoney(.)com” you’ll get this “error” (lie): “Your settings may not be valid…”

If you take out the reference to the link then magically everything works ok again. Rather than specifically saying “Sorry, you can’t post links to that site”, they present the problem as a vague technical issue…when in fact it’s CLEARLY an issue with the domain name. But, from the looks of it, Tumblr wants to hide that fact.

Why are they blocking ExtraLunchMoney(.)com?

We’re not 100% sure, but it’s probably due to the adult nature of ELM (Tumblr if you’re reading this and we’re wrong, please let us know). The end result being thousands of ELM sellers and supporters being restricted from freely posting what they want to their Tumblr blogs. Which somehow seems like the opposite of valuing “creative expression.”

ELM does not have an affiliate program, and nothing in Tumblr’s community guidelines prohibits self-promotion or adult promotion as long as it’s neither deceptive, nor spam. Of course Tumblr does not define what it means by those terms, but nonetheless, I think it’s fair to say that a sneaky and dishonest blanket ban on publishing a specific adult URL is consistent with Tumblr’s methods. Beginning during the negotiation of the sale to Yahoo, Tumblr’s practice has been to disadvantage its adult content in silent and hard-to-notice ways, even when that content was fully-consistent with its fairly permissive community guidelines. What’s more, when forced to backtrack by public outrage after the big robots.txt debacle, Tumblr went to great lengths to pretend it was all a misunderstood and unfortunate technical error.

So my prediction here is that if the link-censoring initiative attracts enough negative attention, publishing these links will start working again and Tumblr will either say nothing, or explain that it was all just a glitch. But if this story doesn’t reach critical mass, look for the list of disfavored adult links to continue to grow.

I am also hearing reports that Tumblr is more aggressively deleting blogs that are being used for adult promotion, even when that promotion seems consistent with the community guidelines. In addition to the mention in the blockquote above of “we’ve had several Extra Lunch Money (ELM) related Tumblr blogs removed”, there are similar reports from the world of camgirls:

As of this morning, my tumblr – hellenlefay.tumblr.com – no longer exists. One minute it was there, the next it wasn’t. I tried opening the dashboard and it said my blog had been terminated, and I could contact support if I didn’t know why this happened.

Um, of course I had no idea why this happened! If you’ve ever stumbled onto my tumblr, it’s very obvious I’ve put quite a bit of time into the design and content. I wouldn’t intentionally do anything that would get me removed! In the recent past I updated my blog to be listed as NSFW, even though I only post pg13 pictures, just in case I was reported for being considered adult content but not listed as such.

So, why was I terminated? Not warned, not suspended, but my entire account deleted?

Spam and affiliate marketing.

This is the reply I received from Mathieu inTumblr Support:

We’ve terminated your Tumblr account at hellenlefay.tumblr.com for spam or affiliate marketing. Per the policies you agreed to when creating your account, Tumblr prohibits such activity.
Don’t put deceptive links or dubious code in your posts. That includes using Javascript to inject unwanted ads in blogs, or embedding links to interstitial or pop-up ad services. Don’t use deceptive means to generate revenue or traffic, or create blogs with the primary purpose of affiliate marketing.

Let’s break that down to address each point. First off, I typically post 1-5 posts per day, so that’s hardly spam. It can’t even be argued that I’m spamming other people through their Ask or Fanmail boxes, because I rarely use them. Or mine. As for affiliate marketing, that is not something I’ve ever gotten into. I truly admire the girls who put the effort into running a successful affiliate system, but really really really I can’t, so no affiliate marketing on my Tumblr.

Deceptive links or dubious code – anything I’ve ever posted has been extremely obvious about where the link goes. For example, if it says “Clips4Sale”, guess what? It links to c4s.com/53691, which is my Clips4Sale page. Shocker! The only sort-of-sneaky code I had done was when I put in endless scrolling and disabled right-clicking on my photos. ;) The last point, about using deceptive means to generate traffic, really threw me… I guess showing my butt is a deceptive way to increase traffic?

The main purpose of my tumblr was promotion – I posted photos of myself and links to my websites. My posts were PG13. I was tagged as NSFW as a precaution, because hey, I have some hot friends who post some very hot photos, and I like to reblog them once in a while. I linked to my profiles on other sites, both on my tumblr blog and in my posts.

My entire account was terminated without warning or suspension.

This isn’t just happening to me, it’s also happened to a couple of my camgirl friends. They were terminated without warning as well.

If you’re a camgirl (or really any adult industry person), be aware that tumblr can and will remove your entire account if they don’t like what you post or where your links go.

This, too, is not new. Tumblr has a long and unsavory history of deleting adult blogs (and for all I know, non-adult ones) it deems too commercial, even if they don’t violate the community guidelines. The best explanation I’ve got for that is that they’ve got an extremely broad and flexible definition of spam. Which, if they’d be explicit about it instead of sheepish and deceptive and piously “we value your freedom of expression”, would be no problem at all.

But they’re not. They are quietly and dishonestly hostile to adult content in general and to adult marketing and self-promotion in particular, even when that marketing complies with their community guidelines in every particular. Which is a nice intro to this morning’s sermon on The Catechism of Bacchus:

  1. Tumblr is, at the end of the day, a blogging service.
  2. As I’ve been saying since at least 2004, blogging services suck.
  3. This is Bacchus’s First Rule and it remains the rule: Anything worth doing on the internet is worth doing on your own server that you control.
  4. You will be tempted to ignore The Rule because of social media network effects.
  5. You may even feel forced to ignore it, because you can’t get enough attention on your own platform.
  6. When you disregard the rule (and everybody does, even me who wrote it) you will get burned.
  7. Count on it. Plan for it. The Pornocalypse Comes For Us All.

Update, some hours later: The “extralunchmoney.com” string can now be published on Tumblr without a problem, or it could when I just tested it. I do not believe it was a glitch but if Tumblr ever acknowledges this trial balloon, I’ll betcha they claim it was.

Updated update: It’s official, Tumblr support said it was a glitch. As I predicted. “Looks like a glitch on our end was causing the problem, but now it’s fixed.” Pretty strange “glitch”, though. My guess is that they’ve got a shit-list of unpublishable URLs, which are supposed to be genuine bad actors. This would make sense, to stop a malware link that’s going viral for instance. The “glitch” here would be that a legitimate URL got put on the list, I’m guessing. If they are ramping up enforcement of affiliate spam and somebody got overzealous or had poor training, it would explain this outcome. That would also explain why the camgirl sites are getting slammed; those links they use to direct people to their camming sites look a lot like affiliate links in structure, even though they aren’t actually affiliate links in function.

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