To comply with Apple’s rigorous safety requirements, Tumblr’s iOS app has been updated to restrict a lengthy number of tags. The platform states that it is altering iOS users’ ability to access sensitive information, which may impair their experience while searching for content, scrolling through the “Stuff for You” and “Following” parts of the dashboard, and perhaps preventing access to flagged blogs.
To “remain available within Apple’s App Store,” Tumblr claims it must “expand the definition of what sensitive material is,” and it appears that Tumblr went too far.
Tumblr uses tags to make posts searchable; postings with censored tags will not surface in a user’s dashboard or on the platform’s search page. The word “submission” was one of the ludicrous tags that ended up being filtered out on iOS, according to a Twitter thread.
The intriguing thing is that Tumblr automatically applies the tag when a post is submitted and subsequently published to a Tumblr blog. Users on iOS who receive a contribution to their blog will be unable to access it since the “submission” tag has already been inserted, as one Tumblr user demonstrated.
Another Tumblr user, fittingly called “bannedtags,” has created a Google Doc to keep track of all the banned tags. The majority of these tags have been prohibited on iOS, but not all devices, according to the user, and the tags mentioned are subject to change. Some prohibited tags are obviously linked to sexual, violent, or destructive content, while others don’t appear to belong on the list, and keeping on it may cause more harm than good.
“Girl,” “sad,” and, strangely enough, “Alec Lightwood,” a character from the show Shadowhunters, have all been banned (because even Tumblr can’t handle those eyes). “Single dad,” “single mom,” “single parent,” “suicide prevention,” and “testicular cancer” are all on the list, which might jeopardize people seeking help in these areas.
To make matters even worse, Tumblr has blocked several tags that serve as unwritten social indicators on the platform. “Me” and “my face” are both prohibited tags that bloggers use to name their selfies (did I forget to mention that “selfie” is also prohibited?). The tag “queue,” which is generally added to messages that have been queued and serves as a notice to followers that they may not be online at the time, appears to have been disabled as well.
Tumblr first ran into trouble with Apple in 2018, when its app was withdrawn from the App Store without warning after child pornography was discovered on the platform. As a result, Tumblr has outright prohibited explicit content, a significant change from the platform’s prior lax stance on NSFW posts. When Tumblr originally adopted the change, innocent postings were regularly identified as having sexual material, and it appears that history is repeating itself, albeit this time in a new way.
Tumblr claims it’s working on “new features for a less constrained iOS app experience,” although it’s unclear when or how this will happen. This update has no effect on users on Android or on the site’s browser-based version. It’s still unclear why Tumblr blocked so many tags, or if Apple had anything to do with it. The Verge reached out to Apple for comment but did not receive a response right away.