NSFW is an acronym that means “not safe for work.” You’ve likely seen it as a warning on photos and sound clips. The acronym is used when the content has the potential to get someone fired from their office due to pornographic, violent, or otherwise inappropriate material.

That was the original meaning of NSFW. As time went on, NSFW has evolved to apply to any content that might make someone uncomfortable. Essentially, if you see it attached to something, turn your screen away and check it out privately before you share the content with anyone else. 

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    How Sites Use the NSFW Tag

    Curiously enough, the NSFW tag is only rarely used for extreme gore. NSFW is almost always going to involve nudity, sexual content, or graphic language

    Some sites provide users the ability to block content that is NSFW. In some cases, the content will be blurred out and you have to click the blurred image or video to show the content.

    In apps like Reddit, entire channels may be marked as NSFW. On Twitter, you can enter #NSFW to find posts that are unsafe to view at work.

    NSFW content is typically not displayed immediately and will only appear once you click on it. This provides viewers with a warning to avoid the content if they don’t want to see it.

    How to Use NSFW

    Whether you’re on social media or you’re a website owner and you want to give users a warning that some of the content may not be for them, there are times when NSFW is appropriate to use. 

    example of nsfw used on image

    Before posting anything, ask yourself:

    • Does this contain sexual content, crude language, or otherwise inappropriate material?
    • Would I be okay with a child seeing this content?
    • Could it make someone uncomfortable?
    • Would someone potentially lose their job for watching this at work?

    If the answer to any of those questions is “yes,” just add “NSFW” to the title. It’s a quick heads-up to the viewer that perhaps it’s better to wait until they’re alone to view the link, or at the very least to not click it when on a company or school computer.

    How to Create an NSFW Filter

    There are a few ways to create a filter for your own website if you want to blur NSFW content. The first is an automated method that uses Computer Vision and the PixLab API. To use this method, you must implement the PixLAB API. By calling the API through a PixLab API Key, images will be automatically tested whether they are NSFW or not.

    nsfw code example

    The image will receive a numerical score. The closer the image is to “1,” the more NSFW it is. This works in the background, but introducing the code to your website takes a bit of time and you’ll need to be familiar with how to code using the language of your site.

    You can find the details of how it works on dev.to and the actual code on github.

    Another option is to simply link to the image. This requires much more manual input, but rather than embedding an image in a blog post, warn the reader that it is NSFW and then provide a link. If they follow the link, ensure they have enough forewarning before clicking. 

    example of nsfw

    A third option is to rely on automated services like imagga, Microsoft’s Azure Content Moderator, or similar services. Many of these are paid services, but if you run a website or a dedicated forum and you don’t have a moderation team, tools like this can help simplify day-to-day management. 

    There are other options available to you, as well. You can tie user posts to a Facebook account. For example, if they have less than 50 friends, restrict their posting capabilities until images can be reviewed by a human. You can also provide a “Report” button for users to self-report NSFW images. 

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