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So… How Much Porn Is on Tumblr?

Thank you, data science.

It's sort of a comfort that despite most of the internet being colonized by anodyne corporate platforms, people are still incredibly horny online.

Of course, we all know this. The internet is "for porn," after all, and gloriously porny subcultures thrive on platforms like Tumblr and Twitter. But the scientific question is: how horny are we, exactly?

Read More: Your Porn Is Watching You

Researchers from two universities in Italy and Bell Labs decided to take a crack at answering this hugely important question by looking at data from Tumblr and Flickr, both Yahoo properties. They published their results to the arXiv preprint server last week, and the research was also presented at a conference earlier in the year. Their surprising conclusion: Tumblr has a lot of porn, while Flickr, not so much.

To get this result, the researchers looked at anonymized data from 130 million Tumblr users and 39 million Flickr users. They then analyzed the accounts to identify producers (people who post original pornographic content on their page) and consumers (people who follow these users). There was also a third group: the "unintentionally exposed." That is, people who don't follow producers or reblog them, but follow others who do.

Image: Coletto et. al.

On Tumblr, the number of producers was very small, less than 1 percent of the sample. But the number of consumers was much higher: 22 percent. But most surprising is the large number of unintentionally exposed users. All in all, direct consumers of porn and the unintentionally exposed make up just over half of the entire sample of users. The sample was about half of Tumblr's total user base, meaning it's fairly representative.

The Flickr data is less interesting to look at, mostly because it's lame. The vast majority of users—82 percent—were not exposed to porn accounts at all. We can only speculate about why this is, but the researchers note that self-reported demographic data suggests the user base of Tumblr is largely young and female, while Flickr skews older and male.

It may have something to do with an established culture of fun-loving deviance on Tumblr. While Flickr has a history of banning public porn posts and filtering NSFW material going back more than a decade, Tumblr was a bit of a free-for-all until 2013 (it launched in 2007) when it was acquired by Yahoo and became more serious about NSFW content filtering.

To sum up: Tumblr users are very horny.

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