Should Pornhub Buy Tumblr? Here’s Why It May Be a Bad Idea

May 3, 2019, 9:28 PM UTC
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Unique Design Abstract Digital Pixel Noise Glitch Error Video Damage. The7Dew Getty Images/iStockphoto
The7Dew—Getty Images/iStockphoto; Tumblr

Verizon’s decision to remove all adult content from Tumblr doomed the platform that used to be a haven for people who wanted to explore niche areas of sex and kink, but didn’t want their browser history littered with known porn sites.

The move led to an exodus of users, which, in turn, has prompted Verizon to put it on the block. Thursday, The Wall Street Journal reported porn supersite Pornhub had emerged as a serious contender.

For Tumblr users hoping the site returns to its heyday, the potential acquisition might seem like an erotic dream come true. But should the deal take place, they might want to think twice before they return to the platform.

Pornhub is owned by a company called MindGeek (which was formerly called Manwin). It is a dominant force in the world of porn today, having bought out some of the big studios of the past and drove others out of business as it expanded. Its bread and butter, though, are streaming sites, like Pornhub, YouPorn and RedTube.

Each of those sites has been regularly accused of piracy, despite apparent efforts to counter it, and their rise has been a significant factor in the deflation of salaries for performers in the industry, according to several performers who have spoken to Fortune.

Porn is often seen as an industry that’s always in search of new performers. Fans crave variety and the reintroduction of adult images and video clips to Tumblr could give the company access to a slew of new content, depending on the terms of service.

People who post their pictures on a MindGeek-owned Tumblr could be signing away the rights to them, allowing the company to monetize them and distribute them as it wants. And, for many people, that could be a worst case scenario of “nothing on the Internet ever disappears.”

MindGeek is an especially private company. Many in the industry, even top executives, say they’re unsure who, exactly, is in charge there. (Founder Fabian Thylmann is no longer involved with the company and the power structure has been obscured ever since his departure.)

Pornhub, though, has become its public face. A master of marketing, it regularly pops up in mainstream life, such as its 2014 billboard in Times Square. It has, in fact, become such a well known division that mainstream companies, such as Kraft, occasionally advertise on it.

More must-read stories from Fortune:

—Tumblr trouble illustrates Verizon’s messy media strategy

Fake porn videos are terrorizing women. Do we need a law to stop them?

—The curious case of $850 million in missing cryptocurrency

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