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April 15th, 2015 -- by Bacchus

Tumblr’s “Glitch” That Prohibits Posting Select Adult Links? It’s Baaack…

Does anybody remember when, back in 2013, I blogged about how Tumblr was blocking selected adult links, in particular ones to a clip-sale place called Extra Lunch Money? It was a prior restraint sort of block; you’d hit the post button and if the offending link was present, you’d get a cryptic red “there was a problem saving your post” response.

My prediction back then was that Tumblr would, when caught, claim that the prior link restraint was a glitch:

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 was right. That’s exactly what happened. The blocked links quickly started working again.

Fast forward to yesterday, when Lady Amalthea posted an alert on her Tumblr blog about a sort of prior restraint that she’d noticed in attempting to post links to various cam sites and clip-sales sites:

tumblr-bullshit

Notice that one of her examples of a link Tumblr won’t let her publish is our old friend from 2013, that Extra Lunch Money site. And also notice that one of the people responding to Lady Amalthea’s post says that the block on her other example (My Free Cams) is not new: “Tumblr has never let me link to MFC, btw. That’s not a new thing in case anyone thought it was.”

So I fired up my Tumblr test suite and decided to focus on those two links and (as a control) the top link on her list of links that were working as of yesterday, a link to the clip site Clipvia. So far I haven’t looked at the behavior of any other links, just these three.

What I found is that whether you want to call it a “glitch” or prior restraint, at least some of the link-blocking behavior is definitely back. However, it may indeed be somewhat glitchy; I found that the behavior was inconsistent (not reproducible) as to at least one of the test links.

The first thing I tried was to create a new “Text” style post for each of my three test links, which I created by navigating to the home page of the three sites, copying the URL displayed in my nav bar, and pasting it directly into the new Tumblr post page before hitting the “Save Draft” button. At first, the only link that generated an error message was the one from My Free Cams:

my-free-cams-text-post-fails

Although I was initially able to save more than one draft posts with the Extra Lunch Money and Clipvia links, subsequent attempts failed:

extra-lunch-money-text-post-fails

clipvia-text-post-fails

From there, I moved on to creating new “photo”-type posts. I would upload an image (the same in all cases), paste in the test URL, and attempt to save. In this case, I have not been able to get the Extra Lunch Money link to fail; it’s worked several times when I have tried this experiment:

extra-lunch-money-image-post-succeeds

However, my other two test URLs are not postable:

clipvia-image-post-fails

my-free-cams-image-post-fails

For my final experiment, I tried editing a post reblogged from someone else, and pasting in all three suspect links. In this, and several other experiments with reblogging, I was unable to generate the mysterious error message, and instead successfully saved my drafts:

reblogged-links-work-fine

My conclusion? If this is indeed a deliberate block of a set of blacklisted links, its implementation is glitchy, because the same link would sometimes post and sometimes fail to post for me. Its implementation is also glitchy across different post types and post actions. However, I don’t believe it’s completely random; there seem to be no reports of unpostable links outside this universe of sites used by camgirls and indy custom adult clips producers. I suspect that Tumblr does indeed have (and has had since at least 2013) a blacklist of not-to-be-published links. (This would even make sense if its use was restricted to protecting Tumblr users from malicious malware installers, to pick one obviously-legitimate use for a blacklist.) There might be an automated process (that’s gone wrong) for adding sites to the blacklist, or there might be a training-and-supervision issue that has let “rogue employees” add stinky adult sites to a list that was not intended for the restraint of adult publication. Given the way different attempts to post the same link have different results at different times, it’s even possible the blacklist is not universally distributed across all of Tumblr’s different server farms.

If enough Tumblr users report this “glitch” to Tumblr support, I expect that eventually the adult links they would like to publish will be removed from the blacklist, since the links do not violate any of Tumblr’s existing terms of service or community guidelines. That’s what Tumblr did last time, and they haven’t announced any new terms or policies (I checked).

Last time Tumblr was flirting with blocking selected adult links from publication, I wrote:

Tumblr is 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.

Nothing has changed since I wrote that.

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February 24th, 2015 -- by Bacchus

#Pornocalypse: Blogger/Blogspot Second Round

This is huge:

blogger-pornocalypse

Violet Blue has all the details at ZDNet:

Every Blogger user behind an “adult content warning” page was told Monday by Google to delete sexually explicit content, or find their blog removed from every form of access except registered users.

Until today, Google’s Blogger platform previously allowed “images or videos that contain nudity or sexual activity,” and stated that “Censoring this content is contrary to a service that bases itself on freedom of expression.”

That changed on a whim Monday when Google ripped the rug out from under its previously-compliant Blogger users, who were told they’d be disappeared if Google decided their blogs contain “sexually explicit or graphic nude images or video.”

Rather than leave its already-restricted adult content alone, Google has told Blogger users it will be eliminating all adult blogs from public access on March 23, 2015, (and taking them out of all forms of search).

Blogger blogs with adult content which — at this time — are findable in search will be deep-sixed from the Internet once the changes take effect.

It’s worth noting that the vast majority of adult blogspot/blogger blogs are, at this time, moribund. Which means that nobody will be bring them into compliance. And when they go dark in a month, a huge proportion of the links in the sex blogosphere will break.

I have said it before. I will say it again. Anything worth doing on the internet is worth doing on your own domain that you control. If you use a free service to post adult material, that free service will, eventually, fuck you. (Not in the nice way.)

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August 8th, 2013 -- by Bacchus

Tumblr Censoring Select Adult Links

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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June 11th, 2013 -- by Bacchus

Bacchus’s First Rule Of The Internet

Recently I became aware of an ironic lapse: the most succinct statement of Bacchus’s First Rule that exists on the internet is to be found in a two-year-old tweet on somebody else’s server. Doh!

By embedding the tweet here, I am trying to live by my own Rule. A side benefit is that I’m putting it somewhere that’s easier to find and link to. It’s true that the embedded tweet still depends on access to Twitter’s servers for styling information, but the text will still be here if Twitter’s servers go away. (By “here” I mean “on my server for as long as I have one” and subsequently in whatever archives of ErosBlog may persist.)

I should note that sometimes these days I phrase the rule a little bit differently than I did at first. The “at your own domain” phrasing comes from an era when search engine optimization (SEO) loomed larger in my thinking. Why create content that will generate search traffic to another domain instead of to your own? But focusing on the domain name can be somewhat misleading.

One reason is that in these modern times, search engines can’t be trusted to reliably send traffic to web locations that aren’t in their corporate-partner data-silo complexes, especially if the content is disfavored, like dirty porn or instructions for downloading stuff. SEO has become a mug’s game for the most part; it’s necessary but not sufficient to guarantee your web presence. You can’t disregard it entirely but it’s a will-o-wisp that will mire you in the swamp if you make it your guiding star.

But that’s actually a side issue. The core of the problem with putting your creative output on free blog hosting services and what we’ve come to call “social networking sites” never was maintaining visibility; often, the social networking sites will send you more traffic than you ever could hope to get on your own. No, at the heart of the problem is control. And for that, you want your own server more than you want your own domain, because the server is more important to your own control and (if you want it) long-lived web presence.

Your “ownership” of a domain name is anyway a somewhat fragile thing; a domain can be fairly easily taken away by litigation or state action. The two things you can actually control are your files and the server that hosts them. What gives your web presence its best hope of permanence is you being the owner of your own server or, more commonly, being a lessee of server space from some commodity hosting provider who can be instantly replaced when (if) they stop respecting your prerogatives. If you keep your files in order (fresh backups!) you can get new server space in under four hours; hosting businesses are highly competitive and eager for your money. So now I tend to state the rule this way:

Bacchus’s First Rule Of The Internet: “Anything worth doing on the internet is worth doing on your own server that you control.”

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June 10th, 2013 -- by Bacchus

Pornocalypse Comes, WordPress.com Edition

Here’s a person who had their personal D/s blog deleted from WordPress.com (the blog hosting service, not the .org self-hosted blogging software) and has been utterly unable to get any explanation except for form letter responses about the terms of service. From WordPress.com hostile to kink?, this excerpt:

I would respect them if they said “we don’t want mature content, period”. But I refuse to support a company that wants to be perceived as mature-friendly, but secretly kicks out kinky bloggers for subjective, undocumented and arbitrary reasons. That’s just dishonest.

The pornocalypse comes for us all. And anything worth doing on the internet is worth doing on your own server that you control.

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May 19th, 2013 -- by Bacchus

How To Search Your Adult Tumblr Blog

The full implications of Tumblr making adult-flagged porn Tumblr blogs non-searchable, and hiding their content from the search engines, are only just starting to sink in for people.

For instance: if you have an adult tumblr, now you can’t even search your own blog to find an old post.

I’m getting panicky emails from people with huge adult Tumblrs, thousands of posts. Apparently internal Tumblr search has never worked well (you can search for one tag, or for blog names, but not for post content and there are no multi-keyword searches) and it’s impractical to scroll back very far in your own Tumblr dashboard. So they were in the habit of typing [keyword] [their own tmblr url] into Google, and hey presto! There would be the post they were looking for.

Now their blogs have a non-consensual robots.txt file that excludes Google, and all of those search results are gone from Google.

Worse yet? Tumblr blogs flagged “adult” aren’t searchable even with Tumblr’s own internal search. You can test this yourself. Log into your Tumblr dashboard, go to your settings, and make sure you haven’t checked the “Browse tag pages in Safe Mode (Hide content from NSFW blogs)” setting:

setting for allowing yourself to search NSFW-flagged (but not adult-flagged) Tumblr blogs

Unlike the one that doesn’t actually “allow search engines to index your blog”, this checkbox appears to actually work in the narrow sense that if it is not checked, you can search for blogs flagged “NSWF” within the Tumblr tag search interface. But this checkbox lies by omission. You’ve got the option to search tag pages of NSFW blogs (or not) but opting to search them does not let you search blogs that have the deeper-level-of-perdition “adult” flag.

My test for this is to search for a recent post at Wicked Knickers, which I used as my “adult” flagged example in the Thou Shalt Not Search Adult Tumblr Blogs post:

a recent sample post from Wicked Knickers

The post we will be looking for in the Tumblr dashboard tag search has a time stamp of 9:30pm yesterday, May 18, and is tagged “ziegfeld” which makes it a nice handy and recent thing to search for.

date and tags on wicked knickers sample post

We already know that Google no longer has access to the posts on an adult-flagged Tumblr like this:

wicked knickers posts no longer in Google

So, what happens in the Tumblr tag search interface? If you’re logged in, this is what you see when you search for tumblr posts with the “ziegfeld” tag. The posts returned are listed in date order (most recent first) and dates are visible as tooltips on the live page, so I’ve added them in the margin with red arrows and white text. You’ll see that the Wicked Knickers post is not returned by the Tumblr search:

searching for a tagged post from adult-flagged tumblr blog

Interestingly, that logged-in Tumblr dashboard search result is displayed at a URL ( http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/ziegfeld ) that returns something very different (but still no sign of our Wicked Knickers post) if you navigate to it as a not-logged-in person:

what Tumblr shows on a tag search to the open web

Try it yourself if you’ve got an adult-flagged Tumblr blog. Log in and try to search for your own posts in the search box on your own dashboard. You will, sadly, fail.

So, what is to be done? How can you search your own Tumblr blog?

The answer is, quite simply, you cannot — not while it’s on Tumblr’s server behind their robots.txt that you do not have the power to alter or remove.

But, all is not lost. Be ye not in despair. If you could only back up your adult Tumblr blog — make a complete copy of it, on your local hard drive — you could search it there with any file searching tool. Or, if you have a web server of your own, you could upload that copy (mirror it) onto your own web space, where it would once again be indexed and searched by Google.

That’s all I got. It’s the only way. It’s also a very good idea, because eventually The Pornocalypse Comes For Us All, and because Anything Worth Doing On The Internet Is Worth Doing At Your Own Domain That You Control.

Your next logical question is “But how do I do that? How do I back up a Tumblr blog?”

It’s not a simple question. The answer isn’t simple either. But, it can be done. So, that’s my next post.

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May 15th, 2013 -- by Bacchus

Thou Shalt Not Search Adult Tumblr Blogs

If you’ve got an adult blog on Tumblr, there’s a good chance Tumblr uses robots.txt to exclude the search engines from indexing it. Did you know that?

Two weeks ago in The Pornocalypse Comes For Us All, I wrote:

Who is next? My guess would be Tumblr. Tumblr is, of all the big platforms, perhaps the most porn friendly; there’s lots of porn on there and the Terms of Service do not prohibit it… But Tumblr is, famously, a popular platform in search of a revenue-generating business model. And we’ve learned that the suits have no loyalty to the porn users who made their platform popular. So, my bold prediction is that as Tumblr casts about for a business model, one of their steps will be to “clean this place up”…

And now, guess what? 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”?

misleading tumblr settings showing adult blogs as visible to search engines when they are not

That checkbox is a lie. It’s nicely checked, it’s not greyed out, but if your blog is flagged “adult” it’s a lie. Do you see the “Learn more about what this means” link under “Your blog was flagged NSFW” selector? It leads to this page, where Tumblr requests users to appropriately self-flag their blogs:

Please respect the choices of people in our community and flag your blog as NSFW or Adult from your blog Settings page.

  • NSFW blogs contain occasional nudity or mature/adult-oriented content.
  • Adult blogs contain substantial nudity or mature/adult-oriented content.

If you’re not sure if you should flag your blog you can leave it unflagged, but keep in mind that we might flag it later if we see a lot of mature/adult-oriented content.

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:

tumblr chart showing that adult blogs are not indexed by Google no matter what preference the user has expressed

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

Would you have noticed? None of the adult Tumblr bloggers I know ever did. I knew from my porn researching that adult Tumblrs tended to be poorly represented in Google search results, but I chalked it up to the sheer scale of Tumblr and Google’s growing bias against returning porn search results. Nope, I found out the truth in one stark moment of astonishment, summed up by this image:

Internet Archive Wayback Machine page showing a Tumblr blog where robots.txt is blocking access

Let’s click the “See wickedknickers.tumblr.com robots.txt page” link:

a sample robots.txt for an adult tumblr showing that all user agents are forbidden

From me: Aghast. Fucking. Gulp.

In robot, that means, roughly “All robots: stay out!” No search spiders allowed. No Internet Archive crawler. The Wicked Knickers tumblr is there, but you have to know about it, or you have to be linked to it. You won’t find it in Google, you won’t find it in any other search engine that honors robots.txt, and when Tumblr decides to stop hosting it, you won’t find the pages in the Wayback Machine — it will be gone for good, lost to humanity unless somebody with the technical chops and outlaw sensibilities of Archive Team finds a way to archive it anyway, robots.txt be damned.

Wicked Knickers is just an example, one that has some meaning to me because it’s one of the first Tumblr blogs I ever noticed, and I’ve been linking to it since 2010. That’s almost 6,000 vintage erotica posts since January 2009, and none of those pages are in Google or the Wayback Machine. It was only when I twigged to that anomaly that I finally understood what Tumblr is doing to adult blogs.

In all the years that I’ve been preaching Bacchus’s First Rule (“Anything worth doing on the internet is worth doing on your own domain that you control”), I’ll confess that I never considered the power of robots.txt, or what it means to be putting stuff on an internet site where somebody else controls what robots.txt says. Not only do they control your visibility to search engines, they control whether history will remember what you said. That strikes me as a high price to pay for a “free” blogging platform.

It’s worth noting that there’s still rather a lot we don’t know about the Tumblr robots.txt blockade on adult Tumblr sites. Unanswered questions include:

  • Does Tumblr have any flexibility on this? Would their support, if asked, remove or modify the robots.txt barrier in specific cases?
  • When did Tumblr start using robots.txt to block Google from adult blogs? Has it always been like this, or is it a recent innovation?
  • Why does Tumblr display the misleading checkbox that falsely implies that search engines can see flagged adult blogs?
  • What is the actual reason for excluding adult Tumblrs from search engine and (especially) archive crawls?

In an unusual move for me, I actually reached out to press@tumblr.com, told Tumblr I was going to write this post, and asked them for answers to those questions. That was on May 11th. No response so far. If they ever do answer, I’ll be sure to update this post.

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cupid