Pinterest Bans Pro-Anorexia Boards

Hidden in plain sight amongst the endless pages of mouth-watering baked goods, DIY home decor projects, and adorable baby animals is Pinterest‘s more sinister underbelly: pro-anorexia and self-harm pages. The wildly popular microblogging site has run into some criticism of late for providing its users with a forum to post potentially triggering photos of jutting bones, sliced wrists, and slogans like “Nothing Tastes As Good As Skinny Feels” on their “pinboards” accompanied by hashtags like #thinspo and #perfect.

The company sent out an email to its users late Friday evening announcing a change in its Acceptable Use Policy, as well as other, less controversial tweaks to its Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

The new acceptable use guidelines, which go into effect April 6th, include a ban on any content that:

“creates a risk of harm, loss, physical or mental injury, emotional distress, death, disability, disfigurement, or physical or mental illness to yourself, to any other person, or to any animal.”

This means that the so-called thinspiration boards that promote starvation, purging, and other disordered behaviors will no longer be permitted on the website.

Tumblr made headlines last month for instituting similar bans, although a quick perusal of the site indicates that the staff still has a ways to go in policing the nearly 50 million blogs.

The issue is a contentious one, and with good reason – on one hand it is in everyone’s best interest to protect young or otherwise impressionable users from material that might encourage them to self-harm, on the other, banning certain categories of content may pave the way for greater censorship down the line. We are definitely intrigued by the suggestion that is being bandied about that Pinterest and other similar sites integrate ads or skins that lead users with self harm or pro-anorexia pages to organizations dedicated to helping with these issues. This way members still have license to post as they see fit, but susceptible users are made aware of the risks of such behavior and are given the option to seek help.

Do we think many people would see a banner for the National Eating Disorders Organization and suddenly decide ‘Hey, maybe food really does taste better than skinny feels’? Unlikely.

But even if one person does, that’s a step in the right direction.


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