Sorry, Gloria Steinem: Marissa Mayer Is Just Fine With Tumblr Porn

Future Tense
The Citizen's Guide to the Future
May 21 2013 1:00 PM

Sorry, Gloria Steinem: Marissa Mayer Is Just Fine With Tumblr Porn

Marissa Mayer has no plans to crack down on Tumblr's NSFW content.
Marissa Mayer has no plans to crack down on Tumblr's NSFW content.

Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

Gloria Steinem is going to be disappointed.

At a press event in New York on Monday, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer shrugged off suggestions that her company might want to restrict pornography on the blogging platform, which it just bought for $1.1 billion. “It’s just the nature of user-generated content,” she said. “On Tumblr, there’s actually less of that than on almost any of its peers. That said, we do think it’s really important to have good community tools like ‘Not Safe for Work’ that Tumblr already has in place, so people who are looking for that content can find it, but users who aren’t looking for that content don’t just stumble into it.” (Tumblr asks that when users upload adult content, they tag it “NSFW” so people can filter it out if they choose.)

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The remarks echoed what she said in a conference call with investors earlier in the day, in response to a question about how Yahoo would deal with Tumblr content that might not be “brand-safe”—i.e., that advertisers wouldn’t want to be associated with. Mayer replied that her plan was to “let Tumblr be Tumblr.” Without referring to porn directly, she added: “I think the richness and breadth of content available on Tumblr—even though it may not be as brand-safe as what’s on our site—is what’s really exciting and allows us to reach even more users.” The solution for advertisers: “good tools for targeting” to ensure that ads don’t appear alongside the wrong type of content.

One thing Mayer didn’t address: the potential legal issues that arise when people distribute adult content without maintaining the detailed records required by federal law. Noting that Tumblr’s “porn rebloggers” often use stolen or unsourced material, Fast Company speculates that Yahoo’s lawyers may eventually persuade the company to take a more aggressive stance to curb its liability. Until then, as founder David Karp said, Tumblr is “not turning purple”—and it’s staying blue.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Will Oremus is Slate's senior technology writer.

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