Imgur Community Revolts After Site Tightens NSFW Controls

Imgur Community Revolts After Site Tightens NSFW Controls

Imgur, the Internet's favorite hub for Internet memes and uplifting images, decided to tighten the reins on porn links in the comments. So the Imgur community responded the only way it can: a massive revolt.

The front page of Imgur, which is generated by whatever is voted the highest, is suddenly bursting with images protesting the new policy of scrubbing NSFW posts from the comments — along with some of the usual earth porn, memes, cute animal GIFs and Game of Thrones references, of course.

Some users have gotten creative:

The caption of the most-upvoted of all of these images, by a user named stealthkat14, reads in part:

Imgur is making a statement by censoring everything: they believe their site caters primarily to individuals of a younger age — say 10-15ish. I believe this site to have a plethora of consenting adults on it. That being said, while NSFW content is not primarily what we want, and should always be clearly labeled, it is occasionally related to a post and amusing. I believe Imgur to be making a mistake. I implore you to show Imgur that they should choose their target population to be adults.

The post is addressed to @sarah, or Sarah Schaaf, founder, CEO Alan Schaaf's sister and the director of Imgur's community. Sarah jumped on Imgur Tuesday morning to address the backlash.

"I feel pretty sick about it, and it's never my intention or Imgur's intention to upset this community or hide anything from you," she wrote. "I'm hoping to clear some things up if you'll hear me out."

Sarah Schaaf explained that the removal of NSFW comments will be entirely done by flagging and referrals, not by moderators digging around looking for porn. She also said that the team will provide transparent reasons for content removal, and warnings before any bans occur:

This is not meant to turn Imgur into a G-rated shell of itself, nor is it meant to bring down a ban hammer on our most active users. We value free speech and self-expression incredibly highly, and the sometimes crass humor, ridiculous puns and don't-take-ourselves-too-seriously attitudes make Imgur what it is, and we love this community. There is a place for dickbutt and fine art and weird GIFs and information here — nothing will change about that.

Porn is bad for business: Imgur spent years as a bootstrapped pet project of Alan Schaaf's, but in the past year, it's raised millions of dollars from prominent venture capital firms in order to turn its burgeoning community into a business. Imgur will be rolling out a new promoted ad campaign later this summer, and it's been hiring more salespeople to build a sort of user-generated Internet magazine of the future.

And although they want to keep the Imgurian identity intact, having a content free-for-all with porn everywhere is a major turn-off for premium advertisers. It's no coincidence that the new rules about NSFW content came at the same time as a major app release and announcement about new native ads. (Pornographic content hosted on Imgur — much of which is accessed via Reddit — is unaffected for the time being.)

Source: Imgur/Imgur

But the reason that Imgur grew from a redditor's side project into a site bigger than Reddit itself (Imgur rakes in 5 billion page views a month) is its supportive, creative and meme-obsessed community. Without the support of its users, Imgur can't be the destination for "the most viral images on the Internet."

Imgurians have been famously accepting of ads, because until now Imgur's ad strategy has never affected the content everyone was allowed to post. But now that NSFW controls are a little tighter, Imgur is seeing a type of ad-hate bubble up that the company didn't expect.

"[G]et rid of the ridiculous loud pop-up ads at the very least," says stealthkat14's post. "And if you're going to be super gung-ho against sexuality, at least remove the sexy singles in my area."

Here's Schaaf's response in full:

Source: Imgur