Pinterest’s recommendation algorithms are making it easier for paedophiles to create boards full of images of underage girls, according to a report by NBC News. Pinterest suggests related searches that can easily be misused, and while the images themselves do not contain child sexual abuse material, the boards often contain sexual comments. Although Pinterest’s policies prohibit the practice, users have had to rely on ill-fitting reporting categories, and have not had the option to report whole boards. This is despite Pinterest’s aggressive stance toward moderation compared to other platforms, such as its ban on misinformation.
Pinterest has responded to the report by saying it takes the content “very seriously” and will be rolling out a board reporting option, expanded profile reporting tools, and new age verification systems. The company also plans to bolster its AI moderation to catch some offenders automatically. However, the revelations underscore shortcomings in the company’s reporting tools and recommendation engine, and there is political pressure to act. President Biden recently called for Congress and tech giants to improve kids’ online safety, while the Senate’s Judiciary Committee held a hearing echoing those calls. While Pinterest is not in immediate danger of a regulatory crackdown, it is not guaranteed to avoid scrutiny.
Pinterest’s failure to provide direct ways to report attempts to sexualize content featuring minors highlights the importance of having effective reporting tools to combat online sexual exploitation of children. As more and more young people use social media, it’s crucial that platforms take responsibility for their safety and well-being. It remains to be seen whether Pinterest’s new measures will be effective in protecting minors on its platform, but the company’s willingness to address the issue is a step in the right direction.