Do Tumblr’s New Policies Make It Appropriate for K-12 Schools?

This week, Tumblr announced that it would be making a huge change to its community policies. CEO Jeff D’Onofrio said Tumblr is “no longer allowing adult content, including explicit sexual content and nudity” starting Monday, December 17, 2018.

This decision came after Apple removed Tumblr from its App Store when it was discovered that child pornography was proliferating on the app — and flying under the radar of Tumblr’s filter and content moderation team.

Until recently, many schools blocked Tumblr due to its adult material. Now, administrators, teachers and students — many of whom have used Tumblr for entertainment, networking and as an educational resource in the classroom — may be wondering whether they can safely use Tumblr at school again.

So when Tumblr’s new policies take effect, should you consider opening it to your school community?

Despite the big changes ahead, we at Lightspeed still believe completely open access to Tumblr.com is not appropriate for schools and should be at least partially blocked using your content filter.

We’ll explain exactly why, so keep reading.

However we also believe that school administrations should have the power to decide which websites are appropriate for their students. That’s why Lightspeed Systems’ Relay and Web Filter let you customize web access for your school or district on a granular level.

We’ve categorized more than 65 million websites and 101 million YouTube videos based on what is generally appropriate for K-12 schools. If you implement Lightspeed’s powerful content filtering and monitoring solutions, you’re free to use their default block/allow settings.

If you don’t like our filters’ out-of-the-box settings, you can easily tailor your block/allow lists based on domains, subdomains, URLs and wildcards. This gives you the power to allow specific Tumblr pages — teacher pages, for instance — while blocking the rest of the site.

Want to learn more about our filtering solutions? Request a demo now.

In the meantime, here are three reasons we think you should avoid giving your students full access to Tumblr:

1. Tumblr’s definition of “adult content” may be different than yours.
Just because Tumblr is banning pornographic imagery doesn’t mean that students won’t find inappropriate material on the site.

Tumblr defines “adult content” as “photos, videos, or GIFs that show real-life human genitals or female-presenting nipples, and any content — including photos, videos, GIFs and illustrations — that depicts sex acts.”

However, “written content such as erotica” and “nudity related to political or newsworthy speech” are acceptable under the new guidelines. These probably aren’t the sort of things you want third-graders accessing in the classroom or computer lab.

2. Tumblr continues to have hate-speech and bullying issues.
Although Tumblr will be disallowing most explicit, sexual imagery, it’s still a minefield of dangerous content for kids.

Users can easily find racist and extremist propaganda on the site today, and Tumblr’s team has struggled to police bullying on the site.

For similar reasons schools decide to block sites like Facebook and Instagram, or set them to read-only mode, your school may decide that student access to Tumblr is too risky for their well-being.

3. Can Tumblr effectively enforce its new acceptable use policy? That remains to be seen.
As Tumblr adjusts to its more stringent rules, it’s bound to make mistakes. In fact, its new algorithm has already made some.

But note that other social networking sites, even those that have never allowed adult content, struggle to keep porn off their platforms. When we reported graphic imagery on Pinterest, the content was never removed. Because Pinterest couldn’t enforce its own AUP, we moved the site to our “adult” category.

Also keep in mind that Tumblr’s usage policy has never permitted child pornography. This didn’t stop child porn from becoming a huge problem for the site.

Does Tumblr have the technology and personnel to efficiently remove adult content and the abusive users who post it? It’s too soon to know — and probably too soon to give students full access to Tumblr.

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