Imgur Schedules Mass Deletion Of Adult And Old Inactive Content On May 15th, Creating Widespread Backlash Online

April 21st, 2023 - 8:09 AM EDT by Aidan Walker

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A dog, some text describing the Imgur ban and other developments.

Internet culture is like a sandcastle on the beach: Communities create intricate beautiful content and then within a few years, waves can rush in and sweep it all away. The conventional wisdom among many used to be that if you post something online, it stays there forever — but more and more, it's clear that old memes, posts, forums and other parts of internet history are easily and rapidly lost forever.

On Wednesday, the well-known image-hosting site Imgur announced that it would delete a lot of content from its site, effective May 15th. The deletion, which will be done through "automated detection" (meaning computers and AI) under the supervision of "human moderators," will target two main categories of content hosted on its platform: adult content and "old, unused, inactive" content (and with that vagueness, your guess is as good as ours).

Many people on Reddit (which relies heavily on Imgur posts, especially early on before it had media hosting itself) and elsewhere were upset about losing the first type of content, but many were also upset about losing the second, which can range from anything like instructions and guides for outdated products to old memes posted on Imgur since forgotten and unarchived. These pieces of internet history and information will likely be thrown over the cliff and into the void, gone forever.

Imgur's "purge," as many have taken to calling it, is part of a growing pattern in which the old platforms and software that hosted portions of internet culture either die or wipe the slate clean in an attempt to please and attract advertisers.

Adobe outmoded Flash in 2020, for example, and the Internet Archive has recently faced a series of legal challenges that could jeopardize its entire platform. Previous image-sharing sites have also followed a similar path.

The controversial ban reminded many of Tumblr's decision to ban adult content in 2018, which was also loudly criticized at the time, and many blame this decision for Tumblr's decline in popularity afterward.

According to the TOS policy announcement, "artistic" pictures of people without clothes on will still be allowed on Imgur, although the definition of what makes a picture of this kind artistic or not artistic is just as unclear as the designation of "old, unused, inactive" content.

The new changes undoubtedly mark the turning of a page in internet history, as Imgur attempts to clean up its image and buries a lot of old internet content in the memory hole — unless individuals save their old images manually and find a new host.

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