Tumblr iOS app blocks hundreds of search terms to avoid ban


The Tumblr iOS app now blocks more than 400 search terms in order to reduce the risk of Apple banning it from the App Store. It follows a former Tumblr developer expressing frustration at the app review process.

Some of the terms are clearly designed to block access to porn – such as ones for sexual body parts – but others seem bizarre …

Tumblr explained the changes in a blog post.

For those of you who access Tumblr through our iOS app, we wanted to share that starting today you may see some differences for search terms and recommended content that can contain specific types of sensitive content. In order to comply with Apple’s App Store Guidelines, we are having to adjust, in the near term, what you’re able to access as it relates to potentially sensitive content while using the iOS app.

To remain available within Apple’s App Store, we are having to extend the definition of what sensitive content is as well as the way you access it in order to comply with their guidelines […]

When searching for certain terms or phrases that may fall under the expanded definition of sensitive content, you may experience fewer results from that query than you have in the past. In certain circumstances, a search may not produce any results at all and you will see a message like the one below:

“This content has been hidden. This content has been hidden because of potentially suggestive or explicit content.”

Some of the banned terms seem inexplicable – like about, donate, and razor – while others block searches that might be conducted by those in need of help:

  • Addiction
  • Anorexia
  • Antisemitism
  • Bipolar
  • Bulimia
  • Depression
  • Domestic abuse
  • Eating disorder
  • Insomnia
  • Mental illness
  • Misogyny
  • Racism
  • Sexism
  • Sexual harassment
  • Suicide prevention
  • Xenophobia

The company says that it is taking two additional measures:

Blog access: If you tap on a blog through the iOS Tumblr app that is flagged as explicit due to these changes, you will see the same message as above and will not be able to access that blog.

Dashboard: For iOS users, under our “stuff for you” and “following” sections within the dashboard, you may see fewer suggested posts based on the changes being made.

Tumblr acknowledges that the situation is less than ideal.

We understand that, for some of you, these changes may be very frustrating – we understand that frustration and we are sorry for any disruption that these changes may cause. Please know that on the near horizon there will be meaningful developments that will overhaul how you choose to access sensitive content safely on Tumblr – whether visiting us on mobile, mobile web or through our website […]

While we don’t have an exact timeline for how long these changes will be in effect, we are working on additional features that will allow for a less restricted iOS app experience. We anticipate this work to be ready in the near future and we will keep you all updated on our Changes blog as that work continues.

Via Engadget. Photo: Franck/Unsplash.

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