Earlier this week users panicked following an increase in takedown notices, which resulted in the termination of several blogs.
While this uproar was rather public, there are also better concealed changes that seem to target pirated content. Tumblr’s decision to hide posts mentioning the word “torrent” for example.
Those who search the site for “torrent” related queries will notice that there are no results displayed, even though there are plenty of posts mentioning the word. The same is true for posts tagged with “torrent.”
Tumblr is hiding the results in question from both public and logged in users but the latter can make the posts show up if they switch off the “safe mode” lock on the right hand side of the screen.
Below is what the search results for “Ubuntu Torrent” currently look like.
Tumblr’s “safe mode” was turned on by default over a year ago to hide offensive “adult oriented” content from the public view. The same filter also blocks words such as “penis” for the same reason.
Needless to say, not all “torrent” posts are offensive or damaging to children’s eyes. A Vuze developer who highlighted the issue notes that other uses of the dictionary word are less threatening.
“Amusingly, the first result for us is pictures of water flowing over rocks.. so, non-adults feel safe, Tumblr will protect you against pictures of the outdoors,” the developer writes on Tumblr.
“Although, it is true that a torrent is a VIOLENT stream of liquid. And we should all be protecting our children against violence,” he adds.
It’s not clear whether the word “torrent” has been banned over piracy concerns or whether its frequent association with porn is the reason for the ban.
In any case, Tumblr’s filter is also hiding plenty of legitimate content, showing once again that Internet censorship is a slippery slope.