Pinterest Has an Anorexia Problem Now

The Tumblrization of Pinterest is now complete, with "thinspo" bloggers setting up camp on the site, as we suspected they might after Tumblr announced its crackdown on these sorts of self-harm blogs. 

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The "Tumblrization of Pinterest" is now complete, with "thinspo" bloggers setting up camp on the site, as we suspected they might after Tumblr announced its crackdown on these sorts of self-harm blogs. Just one aspect of the self-harm milieu, "thinspiration" blogs glorify unhealthy anorexic behavior with images of super-skinny women alongside mantras like "never give up you'll have your dream body one day." It's sad and disturbing, but not surprising. This stuff has existed since the dawn of the Internet. And, with Pinterest working a lot like Tumblr, it's no surprise the movement has begun to populate this up-and-arrived social network. The only mystery here is, how will Pinterest deal with it?

The content looks just like the "thinspo" posts we found on Tumblr. Lots of skinny girls, collar bones, and diet (starvation) tips. To give you an idea, here's just a sampling from one thinspo pin board. "You wanna binge? Keep telling yourself 'later.' Soon enough, that 'later' turns into 'never.'"

Unlike Tumblr, however, Pinterest does not appear to have guidelines to deal with this burgeoning issue. Under its Pin Etiquette section the site does have a little blurb called "Report Objectionable Content," which outlines the only policy we found on this type of stuff: "We do not allow nudity or hateful content. If you find content that is objectionable or violates our Terms of Service you can submit the content for review by pushing the 'Report Content' link," it reads. While it's possible posts are being reported, we found numerous "thinspo" tagged posts on the site.

When Tumblr instituted its policy a few weeks ago, the Internet did not fully agree with the tactic it took. After testing its general idea, the blog network settled on this as a final policy:

Don't post content that actively promotes or glorifies self-harm. This includes content that urges or encourages readers to cut or injure themselves; embrace anorexia, bulimia, or other eating disorders; or commit suicide rather than, e.g., seeking counseling or treatment, or joining together in supportive conversation with those suffering or recovering from depression or other conditions. Dialogue about these behaviors is incredibly important and online communities can be extraordinarily helpful to people struggling with these difficult conditions. We aim to sustain Tumblr as a place that facilitates awareness, support and recovery, and to remove only those blogs that cross the line into active promotion or glorification of self-harm.

The key part of that: "We aim to sustain Tumblr as a place that facilitates awareness ... and to remove only those blogs that cross the line into active promotion or glorification." In addition to blog removal, Tumblr also settled on showing disclaimers from the National Eating Disorders Association alongside pro-ana tags. Basically, under this policy, Tumblr would remove these thinspo pinboards. Yet any barred thinspo posters seem simply to have moved on (to Pinterest). Of course, Pinterest doesn't have to accept them with an open policy. Still, instead of outright banning the content, which will surely only move to some other part of the Web, they might consider a more progressive stance. Maybe posting National Eating Disorder Association information alongside any pinboards tagged "thinspo?" Anything's probably better than the minimal guidelines they have in place now. We've reached out to find out how they plan to respond.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.