Dear Tumblr

So… I was willing to cut Tumblr some slack. I really was, because like other people, I too was convinced that the porn-dial on there had been cranked up to 12 without anyone taking responsibility for the fact that not everyone shares your love for near-medical closeups of vaginal penetration. It really was getting out of control, folks, so let’s just admit that and move on.

For those of you who read it, my cartoon strip is a pretty benign little thing about a couple of gay boys and their friends and family in Canada. Nothing you couldnt show your mom or even your grandmom. The x-rated panels are published on a separate site and never ever appeared, nor were ever linked to, anything on Tumblr. Everything on that Tumblr page was about as offensive as a Canadian saying “sorry”.

So imagine my surprise when I find almost a quarter of my archive there has been flagged for “adult content”. A cartoon of two fully-clothed guys, sitting on the couch, cracking wise about something was somehow deemed so offensive as to be require hiding it from the sight of sensitive eyes. I went through some of them and discovered that while there were a few mind-numbing examples like the one above, the rest were sheltered because they dared to show…

… male nipples.

OK, let me just say one thing right off the bat. I got no issue whatsover with folks who do nude studies of women. When I took art classes in college, it was pretty much a given that if you hadnt seen a female nipple before then, you were gonna see a lot of them from then on. In Canada, it’s legal for women to go topless. It’s just not a big deal.

But Tumblr’s AI apparently lost its freaking mind and started slapping a naughty-naughty on everything, male and female, because apparently it couldnt tell the difference and would just let Tumblr’s mods sort it out. In my case, we’re talking about appeal of over 600 images, none of which are real infractions of Tumblr’s sudden draconian rules. But I’m expected to scroll through literally years’ worth of entries, find them all, submit them for appeal, and wait for Tumblr to realize it made a mistake.

Yeah, like that’s gonna happen.

I posted the above on my Tumblr feed. Thoughts from Aiko is a semi-regular feature of the cartoon, featuring the occasional musings of the sardonic FTM transsexual Aiko. I’m gonna leave it for about a week, then I’m pulling the entire page down. At this point, it’s simply not worth it. But it does raise a rather interesting question:

When we let AI run things, and AI screws up things, why cant we demand AI fix things?

We invest so much in technology in the hopes that it will make our lives simpler and easier and more fulfilling, but we almost insistently look the other way and blame everyone else when it sticks its foot out, trips us up, and sends us sprawling to the ground. I dont blame the mods at Tumblr for having to resort to this… but I am more than happy to blame their programmers for letting it run amok before fulling testing it out. And apparently, now Tumblr is saddled with a censorship AI that cannot tell the difference between men and women, let alone anatomy in general. It has left the Tumblr mods with a monumental task, involving perhaps millions of images, all of which have to be reviewed one by one by a real person… even as the AI is merrily going on incorrectly labeling thousands, if not tens of thousands, more.

I dont envy anyone running a social media platform these days. I really dont. It’s a big, complicated job that requires nuance and skill. But when you do something as outrageously stupid as this, then you have, IMHO, earned every bit of the derision aimed at you.

Now, Tumblr, go fix your shit.

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One thought on “Dear Tumblr

  1. Some of my perfectly innocuous images of guys kissing were “flagged” by Tumblr. Just homophobic rubbish. So I switched to Swarmr ( https://swarmr.com/NickThiwerspoon/default ), which is nowhere near as developed as Tumblr but still works OK. Easy to upload pics, easy to reblog. Not so easy to work out how to change your blog’s name or appearance. But since I joined they have already made some improvements to the interface so I’m hoping it will go on improving.

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