Pinterest bans content encouraging self-harm or self-abuse

March 24, 2012 at 11:47 AM ET

Pinterest /
Popular site Pinterest serves as a virtual bulletin board by allowing users to "pin" info, photos, links and other content.

Pinterest, a popular site which allows users to "pin" info, links and photos onto a virtual bulletin board, updated its Terms of Service, Acceptable Use Policy, and Privacy Policy on Friday. Among those changes is a ban on content which explicitly encourages self-harm or self-abuse.

Such a ban is not uncommon lately. The staff of micro-blogging service Tumblr recently officially prohibited blogs "that actively promote self-harm" in an attempt to fight the overwhelming amount of content which promotes or glorifies many forms of self-harm including — though unfortunately not limited to — eating disorders, self-mutilation and even suicide.

Unlike Tumblr's policy change announcement, Pinterest's did not specifically call out content which focuses on eating disorders, self-mutilation, or similar acts — but some of the language included in the newly rewritten Acceptable Use Policy is broad enough to cover those topics and more:

You agree not to post User 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

As Business Insider's Jim Edwards and's Helen Popkin have pointed out, Pinterest has been become home to a large amount of content related to "thinspiration" — "thinspo" for short — which essentially glorifies eating disorders. Such content — which was a focus of Tumblr's ban — often features scantily clad, malnourished women, and has been bypassing Pinterest's previous no-nudity rule at such a high rate that Edwards even declared it to be the reason the site has a "porn problem."

Since Pinterest's policy changes don't go into effect until April 6, we'll have to wait to see if they cure this "porn problem" or quell the flood of content which encourages self-harm and self-abuse.

It may take well beyond the first week of April for the policy changes to have a genuine effect, based on how similar bans on content deemed inappropriate have gone. Link-sharing website Reddit's recent ban on all forums which focused on the "sexualization of children" and Tumblr's ban of self-harm-related blogs have both made a dent, but there's still plenty of clean-up to be done on Reddit and Tumblr.

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