SEOUL, March 14 (Korea Bizwire) – blogging site Tumblr is facing growing pressure amid reports that it is becoming a sanctuary for illegal content such as prostitution advertisements and revenge porn, with little to no interference from local authorities.
According to the official website description, Tumblr is a ‘place to express yourself, discover yourself, and bond over the stuff you love. It’s where your interests connect you with your people.’
Though the networking service’s open-minded policy has resonated with young and creative people across the world, attracting over 300 million registered accounts, a growing number of posts containing illegal content have alarmed many users and internet watch dogs including the Korea Communications Standards Commission (KCSC).
The latest figures from the KCSC show nearly 3 in 4 reports of pornographic content found online last year came from Tumblr, including porn, which is illegal to distribute in South Korea, as well as advertisements for prostitution, another practice banned in the country.
In a survey by the KCSC in January, Tumblr was branded one of the most visited websites containing obscene material among South Korean adolescents, with 465 out of the 10,000 respondents spending 14 minutes per session on the website on average.
Among the 81,898 items of adult content found by the KCSC in 2016 alone, Tumblr accounted for 47,480, while Twitter and Facebook had 6,853 and 27, respectively.
The overall figure for adult content found on social media has been growing since 2014.
Tumblr was among the least cooperative social media with the KSCS’s effort to crack down on illegal content despite having been sent the most requests for content rectification, according to the data.
South Korean Media Authorities’ Stance on Tumblr
Last year, the South Korean government sent a request asking the social media site to regulate adult content on its platform, but the U.S. blogging service refused to cooperate with local authorities’ push to crack down on pornography.
“Tumblr is a U.S. company regulated by U.S. law. Tumblr has no physical presence in South Korea and is not subject to its jurisdiction or laws,” the networking service said in a statement sent to the KCSC.
The blogging giant’s response that it is a service that enables broad freedom of expression and a wide variety of content including adult-oriented material prompted lawmakers to express regret.
“Tumblr has been providing Korean-language service since 2013, although it does not hold a branch here. The company should give a modicum of respect to South Korean rules and cooperate (with local authorities),” said Rep. Choi Myung-gil of the People’s Party.
Since the disagreement came to light, media regulatory authorities have hinted at the possibility of taking further steps, including blocking access to Tumblr as a whole.
“Though 10 percent (of the content on Tumblr) is pornographic, the other 90 percent has positive value. As the distribution of porn can impact brand image, we will continue to ask for cooperation in self-censorship,” said KSCS vice chairman Heo Wook during a briefing held last September.
A number of IT companies including Naver, Kakao and SK Communications are on board with the KCSC’s effort to crack down on illegal content including pornography, drugs, gambling, prostitution and child porn.
Access to Tumblr has been banned in Indonesia since last Monday following a series of reports of adult content on the website, according to the nation’s Communication and Informatics Ministry.
Speaking from his office earlier this month, Minister Rudiantara said the ban was put in place after Tumblr failed to clean up its content, and said there was no way he would let the site ‘pollute Indonesia’s internet,’ local media reported.
Hyunsu Yim (firstname.lastname@example.org)