Research:Online Community Conduct Policies/Pinterest
Pinterest describes itself as a “visual bookmarking tool”. Founded in 2010, it is essentially a virtual pinboard onto which users can clip, save, categorize, and share images and links. It is a primarily visual medium; while users can comment on pins, there are no centralized discussion forums. Pinterest has a monthly active userbase of between 70-100 million users, with a majority of their active users being female..
Pinterest has an umbrella Acceptable Use Policy, but breaks down the specifics of its conduct policies into a number of topic areas. They also provide a list of guiding principles that they encourage users to follow to make the community a positive place.
- Be kind: Treat everyone as you’d like to be treated
- Block and ignore: Create your own safe place
- Try to resolve: If you find yourself in an escalating conflict, let the other Pinner know it’s bothering you
- Take a breather: Put some space between you and the other Pinner
- Report with care: Let us know about anything that goes against our policies
Throughout Pinterest's Acceptable Use Policy, the site provides textual information describing what content does and doesn't infringe on the site's policies, as well as examples of pins which are relevant to the behavior being discussed, but not disallowed by the policy. These explanations are presented in conversational English, rather than in legalistic terms. The policy also notes that some content, while not prohibited, may not appear in "search results and category feeds".
Pinterest prohibits pins (user-submitted content) that promote hate or incite violence toward any of the following classes: "race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, gender, sexual orientation, age, disability or medical condition." Their hate speech policy notes that this policy applies only to the named, protected groups and does not apply to public figures or governments. Content that is related to hate speech but used satirically, as historical documentation, or in a non-hateful context is not prohibited by this policy.
The posting of disturbing or sexual content is tightly-controlled; Pinterest allows "artistic, scientific or educational" nude imagery, but generally disallows all other types of sexual content, particularly pornographic content or content that promotes sexual services. Similarly, medical, educational, or historically-relevant violent imagery is generally allowed, but other images of violence or "gore" are not. Content that appears to pose a credible threat to people or public safety, or to be encouraging behavior that would lead to a risk of injury, harm, or property damage, is also prohibited.
Conduct policies at Pinterest also do not "allow harassment and cyberbullying anywhere on Pinterest, regardless of who started it." This includes "doxxing" anyone, as well as soliciting personal details from minors who use the site. This policy does not apply to public figures or in cases in which the targeted individual is not personally identifiable (for instance, an image of a tattoo without the owner's face or name being attached), or in which a target is not specified. Impersonation of other users or named individuals is also prohibited.
Content which promotes "self-harm, eating disorders or hard drug abuse" is prohibited on Pinterest. The help page on this topic encourages users to submit content of this type for staff review even if it may not be life-threatening, and notes that staff will reach out to the users posting the content to offer help if needed. The same page also provides a list of non-Pinterest resources for suicide prevention in a number of countries and languages.
History of the policy
Pinterest does not keep public documentation of how their policy has evolved; however, the earliest available version of their page on Harassment and cyberbullying (circa August 2014) is remarkably consistent with the current version.
Interspersed between and among its explanations of policies, Pinterest also provides links to educational and supportive resources. This includes advice to teens about site-use, links to the Family Online Safety Institute (which itself provides research and resources about online safety as it affects children and families), and a number of suicide prevention resources covering different countries and languages.
In addition, the site provides a limited amount of guidance to users who report prohibited behavior; for example, users who are being harassed are advised to:
- Cease interacting with harasser
- Block the harasser using user tools
- Report the harasser to Pinterest
- Contact law enforcement if user is concerned for their safety
See also: Reporting something to Pinterest
All users have a basic set of self-moderation tools available to them: the ability to select which pins/pinners to follow (and unfollow) and the ability to block other users. Blocking a user will keep them from interacting with one’s content, but will not prevent them from viewing public pins and profile information.
Enforcement beyond the individual level is done by Pinterest staff. The process staff uses to decide on reports, and the tools they have available to them for this are not explained publicly on the website; however, in cases where conduct policies require a certain standard of evidence or type of user report, the policies list these.
Three elements must be present for Pinterest to consider harassment/cyberbullying behavior to be actionable:
- There must be an identifiable, individual target of the harassment (meaning that the harassment would need to include identifying information such as name, photograph, or personally-identifying details)
- The targeted individual must not be a public figure (as with their Hate Speech policy, described above, Pinterest limits the protections offered to public figures by its conduct policies)
- The targeted individual (or their guardian, if target is a minor) must be the one to submit a report to Pinterest staff about the harassment
Users submitting a report of impersonation must provide:
- URL of impersonator's Pinterest profile
- A link to the authentic profile of the person being impersonated (if there is one)
- If reporting an impersonation of oneself: links or documentation that will allow Pinterest staff to verify reporter's identity
Analysis of policy: strengths and weaknesses
- Times, Los Angeles. "Pinterest users can now shop directly on the site with Buyable Pins". latimes.com. Retrieved 2016-05-02.
- "Pinterest finally shares its size: 100M monthly active users and counting". VentureBeat. Retrieved 2016-05-02.
- "Pinterest's Demographics Mean It Could Become The Next Monster Social Advertising Platform". Business Insider. Retrieved 2016-05-02.
- Duggan, Maeve (2015-08-19). "The Demographics of Social Media Users". Pew Research Center: Internet, Science & Tech. Retrieved 2016-05-02.
- "Pinterest principles". Help Center. Retrieved 2016-05-02.
- "Hate speech". Help Center. Retrieved 2016-05-02.
- "Acceptable Use Policy". About Pinterest. Retrieved 2016-05-02.
- "Nudity". Help Center. Retrieved 2016-05-02.
- "Graphic violence". Help Center. Retrieved 2016-05-02.
- "Harassment and cyberbullying". Help Center. Retrieved 2016-05-02.
- "Impersonation". Help Center. Retrieved 2016-05-02.
- "Suicide and self-harm". Help Center. Retrieved 2016-05-02.
- "For teens". Help Center. Retrieved 2016-05-02.
- "A Safer Internet for All". www.fosi.org. Retrieved 2016-05-02.
- "Block or unblock someone". Help Center. Retrieved 2016-05-02.
- "Report something on Pinterest". Help Center. Retrieved 2016-05-02.