Sexual images of young girls, anti-vaccine and right-wing conspiracy theories can easily be found on Pinterest

Pinterest's policy 'hides' content rather than removing it completely

Adam Smith
Monday 13 July 2020 16:39 BST
(Credit: Spencer Platt, Getty Images)

Pinterest, the curation social media site, has been hosting white surpremacist propaganda and sexualised photos of young girls.

According to an investigation by OneZero, Pinterest’s moderation policy “hides” this content rather than removing it outright. Moreover, the website’s algorithm can, on occasion, actively recommend such images.

In contrast to Facebook and Twitter, which removes content that does not apply by its policies, Pinterest instead attempts to limit what is revealed when users search for terms.

This was seen when the company limited results for wedding venues or content that promoted former slave plantations, as well as tackling anti-vaccination content.

“We block results entirely if we believe they are more likely to be unsafe, cause significant harm or pose an imminent danger,” Pinterest’s spokesperson told OneZero.

“This blocking happens at the search query level, and doesn’t result in the removal of the underlying content, since not all of the results may violate our policies.”

This policy means that “sexualized images of young girls hosted on the platform, some appearing to be children” were able to be discovered under a known code name for child pornography.

Pinterest also had numerous Pinterest boards (collections of ‘pins’, the equivalent of posts) dedicated to the misinformed belief that vaccines cause autism, 5G causes autism, that Bill Gates is responsible for the coronavirus, and anti-vaccination merchandise.

This is despite Pinterest's apparent crackdown on such content.

The company had also taken steps against Qanon content, a conspiracy theory which suggests that an anonymous individual called Q is revealing information about a vast network of operatives secretly attempting to disrupt the Trump administration, and borrows from many other conspiracy theories such as Pizzagate, the Freemasons, and the Illuminati.

Despite blocking the “WWG1WGA” acronym popular with Qanon supporters, Pinterest has not taken action against the alternative slogan “WWG1WGALL” and will auto-complete it if searched. The website also reportedly hosts books and images related to neo-Nazi groups. OneZero also reports that having found this content, Pinterest’s algorithm recommended more of it on its home page.

“Generally speaking, we limit the distribution of or remove hateful content and content and accounts that promote hateful activities, false or misleading content that may harm Pinterest users or the public’s well-being, safety or trust, and content and accounts that encourage, praise, promote, or provide aid to dangerous actors or groups and their activities,” a Pinterest spokesperson told OneZero when questioned on such content.

“While we work hard to identify and take action on this content so it won’t be discoverable, some violating content will sometimes appear in search engine results, even in instances where we have requested that it be removed.”

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