Pinterest, a website best known for inspiration boards, has also been hosting sexualized photos of young girls, conspiracy theories, and white supremacist propaganda, a OneZero investigation has revealed.
In the past, the social media platform has been praised for its proactive moderation efforts, but OneZero found numerous instances of harmful content that not only evaded Pinterest’s abuse filters, but were actively recommended by its search algorithm. These findings underscore the risk of the site’s moderation approach, which “hides” dangerous material rather than removing it from the platform.
“We want Pinterest to be a place for inspiration and that means we need to be deliberate about creating a safe and positive space for our users,” a Pinterest spokesperson told OneZero. “If people find content that shouldn’t be on Pinterest, we encourage them to report it to us. We rely on the reports from users to evolve our standards as well as using proactive tools to find and remove content. Additionally, we seek advice from outside experts on how we might improve our policies and enforcement.”
For years, Pinterest has sought to distance itself from other platforms by insisting it isn’t a social network, but a “‘catalog that’s hand-picked’ for users,” according to CEO Ben Silbermann. When Facebook and Twitter have opted to combat disinformation by removing millions of harmful posts and accounts, Pinterest chose another route, launching a search ban on “polluted content” in 2018 that started with anti-vaccination terms, cancer cures, and other health misinformation.
Instead of completely eliminating this type of content, Pinterest’s search engine blocks results for keywords likely to produce misinformation, according to the Wall Street Journal. These efforts were expanded last year, when Pinterest began serving verified health facts in response to vaccine-related searches in a move that echoed Facebook’s and Twitter’s approach, The Guardian reported, and banned hundreds of URLs and groups related to vaccine conspiracy theories. It similarly…