Technology

What The Heck Does Tumblr’s “Female-Presenting Nipples” Mean?

Tumblr Female-Presenting Nipples
josemiguels / Pixabay

Tumblr has announced that it would clean up its platform by removing all the adult content by December 17. It’s a quite surprising statement from a website flooded with porn content. Of course, the content clean-up drive gathered speed only after Apple removed the Tumblr app from the App Store. In its new avatar, Tumblr will become a more child-friendly platform. The company said in its announcement that the “better, more positive Tumblr” will be free of things like photos and videos of genitalia, sexual acts, and “female-presenting nipples.” Wait, what? What the heck is “female-presenting nipples”?

Decoding the “female-presenting nipples”

The company took this step because they believe without the adult content, they could create a place where users will feel more comfortable expressing themselves, even if that means alienating millions of its users. But we all know that Tumblr’s removal from the App Store forced the company to go in that direction. A lot of users are already leaving Tumblr for other platforms.

Here’s what Tumblr said in its statement that has everyone scratching their heads:

Adult content primarily includes 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

Tumblr hasn’t yet clarified what it means by “female-presenting nipples”. People on Twitter and other forums are confused what it means. Yeah, we understand female nipples and male nipples. But what is “presenting” doing here? Twitter user Vraie Blonde says (via Piunikaweb) Tumblr might have added “presenting” after Rain Dove went head to head with “Instagram over gender identity.”

Rain Dove said in a tweet that “Yes they did. Everyone freaked out at the loophole which resulted in IG being forced to allow me to keep up my topless photos or risk breaking the user agreement contract I had entered into with them.” For the uninitiated, Instagram removed a topless picture Rain Dove had shared earlier this year. Dove called out the photo-sharing platform for violating the user agreement, saying the topless photo was not of a female.

Rain Dove was able to share the same photo on Instagram again. When people reported it to the company, Instagram declined to take action against the model, saying the image did not violate its community guidelines. Tumblr might have used the term “female-presenting nipples” to suggest that photos and videos of female nipples as well as nipples that look like female nipples will be considered adult content and will be removed from the platform.

Tumblr’s algorithms are almost meaningless

Tumblr has already started removing explicit content from its platform. The company can’t manually review billions of posts, so it’s using AI algorithms to identify and remove such content. The problem is that its AI algorithms are so weak that they can’t differentiate between adult content and pictures of Jesus and superheroes. Yes, its algorithms think an image of Jesus is pornographic. If one of your blogs or posts has been marked as adult/explicit, you have to appeal to get it reviewed.

While Tumblr aims to delete images with “female-presenting nipples,” its AI tools can’t tell whether a nipple is presenting as female or male. It can’t even distinguish naked figures with clothed ones. Actor Wil Wheaton shared an image search for “beautiful men kissing.” The images were not explicit, but they were flagged as explicit “within 30 seconds of me posting it,” said Wheaton.

Tumblr chief executive Jeff D’Onofrio acknowledged that the AI tools would make mistakes. “Filtering this type of content versus say, a political protest with nudity or the statue of David, is not simple at scale.” According to TechCrunch, adult content drove more than 20% of clicks to Tumblr’s desktop site last year.

Tumblr was acquired by Yahoo for $1.1 billion in 2013 and it became part of Verizon Oath in 2017 when Verizon acquired Yahoo. Tumblr has been struggling for years. It would be interesting to see how the latest clean-up drive would affect its traffic.