We continue to collect reactions from fan studies scholars and Tumblr researchers to the unfolding Tumblrpocalypse. Here are some thoughts from Casey Fiesler, originally published on Twitter and reproduced with permission and minor edits. (Do check out the original Twitter thread, it has graphs and links!)
“Tumblr is banning adult content beginning in a couple of weeks, and though in some ways this could indeed lead to a "better, more positive Tumblr,” based on evidence from my research, it will also most likely destroy fandom Tumblr.
We recently conducted a study of fandom platform migration over time, and found that the absolute most striking example of a mass exodus was from LiveJournal, after they did… well, this exact same thing.
When fanfiction.net created policies against adult content in the early 2000s there was a similar exodus, though (see the chart in my previous tweet) there was not as much of a lasting impact – in part because the demographics on fanfiction.net skew younger.
Based on our research, Tumblr is the most active social platform for fandom right now, but there is already a lot of discontent in part because of the lack of subcommunities & privacy settings. This policy change could be the final nail for fandom Tumblr.
It’s important to note that, as with the LiveJournal policy in 2007, this isn’t about [combatting] child pornography. As Tumblr confesses in their own post about the challenges of automated content moderation, it is likely that false positives will be rampant.
A piece in Slate last spring covered this research about the causes and effects of platform migration in fandom, asking “Why Did Fans Flee LiveJournal, and Where Will They Go After Tumblr?” – suddenly that has become a really important question. 🙂
Others here on Twitter have brought up other communities that will be disproportionately affected by the Tumblr ban on “adult content.” One side effect of the LiveJournal policy change was the deletion of communities for sexual assault survivors.
A positive note: Remember that one huge side effect of the exodus from LiveJournal was the creation of Archive of Our Own. This has been wonderful for the fandom community. Perhaps the same could happen again! Read about the story behind that.
One finding of our fan migration work is that there must be BOTH a good reason for leaving and a viable alternative, for everyone to leave Tumblr. We definitely have the good reason now. I wonder if @Pillowfort_io is potentially in a position to handle an influx of users.
Keep hearing “it’s ok, Tumblr is going to allow stuff like breastfeeding & medical transition” – but is it REALLY okay to put the burden on marginalized users to “appeal” flags? Even if you know the algorithm is trash, it’s still upsetting to be told your content is unwelcome.“