Technology

Tumblr Has A New Owner—Which Isn't Pornhub—And It Intends To Keep The Porn Ban

Verizon has agreed to sell the microblogging platform Tumblr to Automattic, the company behind the blogging tool WordPress.com. Automattic’s Chief Executive Matt Mullenweg said he intends to keep the ban against NSFW content.

The Tumblr acquisition is the largest buy for Automattic in terms of both price tag and staff size, Mullenweg told the Wall Street Journal. BuzzFeed News has reached out to both Tumblr and Automattic for comment.

News of the acquisition shut down speculation that Pornhub would purchase Tumblr. Vice President Corey Price said in an email to BuzzFeed News in May that the porn-streaming giant was extremely interested in buying Tumblr. Rumors began circulating that month that Tumblr’s parent company, Verizon, was looking to offload the social network after missing revenue targets.

Automattic, according to its website, currently has around 150 million users and operates in 70 countries. Automattic owns a slew of smaller startups including Longreads and Simplenote.

Tumblr’s ownership history has been rocky, to say the least, in the last few years. First, it was purchased by Yahoo for $1.1 billion in 2013. By 2016, its value had been written down by $230 million. Then Tumblr ended up at Oath, the former name for Verizon Media Group, after Verizon bought Yahoo in 2017.

Tumblr’s life at Verizon has been difficult. In December, Tumblr announced it would ban pornography. NSFW content had long been one of the cornerstones of Tumblr’s community and the news of a new SFW platform inspired threats of a mass user exodus. Before the ban, Tumblr was often regarded as one of the best places for independently-created and curated pornographic content for young women and members of LGBTQ communities.

Tumblr was also heavily criticized for poor implementation of the pornography ban. Its AI flagged non-pornographic content, which ironically may have increased user engagement because everyone started making memes about it.

The news in May that Pornhub was considering purchasing Tumblr was exciting for some fans of the social network who were hoping a new owner would restore Tumblr to its NSFW glory.

While Automattic will keep the ban on pornography for Tumblr, but it’s worth noting that WordPress.com does allow mature content, including text, images, and videos that contain nudity. However, WordPress.com currently bans any accounts hosting explicitly pornographic material.

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