Pinterest Has A Porn Problem

pinterest porn

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Officially, there is no porn on Pinterest. The rules of membership prohibit users from posting images featuring nudity, the user community is generally pretty good at self-policing, and most of its users are women using Pinterest for G-rated activities.

But there is porn on Pinterest, and it appears to be a growing problem.

Titillation aside, this is a serious business issue for the pinboard sharing site. If Pinterest is to ever generate revenue and survive in the long term, it will need relationships with advertisers. They do not like porn. And while Tumblr and Pinterest look very different, the underlying function of both sites is very similar: people post visual stuff they like. Tumblr, of course, is overwhelmed with porn and most mainstream advertisers cannot go near it as a result.

As a technical matter, if you search for “porn” on Pinterest, you don’t get any X-rated results. Instead you get pictures of shoes, real estate and kitchen gadgets that people have ironically labeled porn because of their acquisitive lust, not their actual lust.

But that’s misleading, because Pinterest’s users are too smart to simply post smut and label it as such. This weekend, I was browsing through Pinterest and noticed this pin from Liz McKay. It asks people to stop pinning pictures of half-naked women as “inspiration” for losing weight. Underneath it are dozens of comments from other women, mostly defending these “thinspiration” or “thinspo” pictures.

There is a massive amount of “thinspo” material on Pinterest, and the majority of it shows acres of female flesh. This seemed odd. Why would a community of women be defending the use of these images, which seem to be designed as eye-candy?

One possible answer is that “thinspo” — which is better known as a watchword for an insane but aggressively vocal (at least online) group of women who are in favor of anorexia — was recently banned at Tumblr.

Those people now need somewhere to go, and some of them have shown up at Pinterest. A lot of their material is tagged under the guise of “fitness,” but it looks like thinspo-porn to me. (If you want a disturbing look at how pro-anorexia women view themselves and the world, check out pins tagged “thin” on Pinterest. A large portion of those images are from women who have pointed a cellphone camera at themselves while standing in their underwear in front of the bathroom mirror.)

This, it turns out, is the key to porn on Pinterest. It’s filed under anything except the word “porn.”You can find hundreds of adult-entertainment images filed under “fitness,” “erotica,” “boudoir,” “sexy” and so on. The images aren’t as graphic as those that can be found on Tumblr — they’re more “classy” or softcore. But they are there, and there’s a lot of them.

So this is Pinterest’s next challenge: Find a way to crack down on the naked flesh and get back to fashion and recipes. Because advertisers won’t come if Pinterest turns into Tumblr.

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