Will Pinterest’s latest update destroy the platform?

Posted by Julia Ruane on

A silent update was made to the Pinterest platform recently that could lead to a major exodus of brands and the potential downfall of the platform from a brand marketing perspective.

The update, which has yet to be officially announced, has made substantial changes to the way brands can moderate and manage comments on their pins and boards.

What has changed?

The main change is that it is no longer possible to remove comments made by users on your pins. There is an option to just ‘report’ a comment instead.

That may not sound on the face of it to be a big issue, but it is.

Every brand receives toxic comments from users online. Hate speech, abuse, trolls, profanity, graphic violence, gore images, cyberbullying, spam, pornography – they’re all unfortunately just a fact of life in the 21st Century digital age.

Most brands proactively remove this content from their social media pages within minutes. However, with the Pinterest update this is no longer possible. The result is that toxic content will be left on brands’ pins for an indefinite length of time.

The only way brands have to address the issue of toxic content is to report each comment individually and then rely on Pinterest to remove content that it agrees contravenes its own Terms of Service (TOS). But the big problem is that this does not keep brands safe.

Apart from the delays that will be incurred from this process, there is zero support for content that Pinterest doesn’t recognise as ‘toxic’.

Keeping brands safe from toxic content

Each brand has a number of specific risks that can make or break their brand and which require clear protocols in place to deal with this content.

Regulated industries, in particular, are badly affected by the removal of the ‘delete’ function on comments. An alcohol brand, for instance, must comply with regulations around how users report they are interacting with your brand. Any mentions of children in relation to alcohol or abuse of alcoholic beverages are not allowed. These are not covered in Pinterest’s TOS meaning these brands are leaving themselves exposed to user content that contravenes the regulations that the brands are legally required to abide by.

Other, non-regulated industries are also severely impacted. Luxury fashion brands, for instance, have a major issue with fake goods and counterfeit sites looking to deceive users into buying goods on 3rd party sites. However, Pinterest’s position is that if a user accesses any “third party website, service, or content from Pinterest, you do so at your own risk and you agree that Pinterest will have no liability arising from your use of or access to any third-party website, service, or content.” This does not provide a great deal of peace of mind for the brand whose followers trust them to keep their channels safe from this sort of scam.

Pinterest isn’t capable of removing toxic comments well enough, or quick enough, to keep brands safe. That means that brands will be exposed not just to brand-specific content but also to ‘general’ toxic content. They are left completely at the mercy of a service that doesn’t understand or cater properly for dealing with unsafe content for each brand.

In other words it’s a total loss of control for brands’ safety online.

And there’s more…

Removing the ‘delete comment’ functionality is not the only part of this silent update. Other changes have also taken place which raise concerns:

  • All old comments on regular boards are being removed, which means all previous engagement will disappear
  • Top comments will be shown first. This is fine if that comment is positive, but not if it’s toxic to the brand
  • Comments will now show on all versions of that pin – which means that unwanted comments are accessed on all boards, amplifying the problem of unwanted or non-compliant comments being left on the site.

What should brands do as a result of this update?

Until changes are made to bring back control over brand safety on Pinterest, we would advise brands to seriously consider the benefits they will get from using Pinterest as an engagement tool, as well as assess the way they currently use the platform.

What could this mean for Pinterest?

If brands feel unsafe on Pinterest they will move away from the platform. Brand safety has seen a marked shift in importance over the last year. In 2017 we saw the impact from the lack of perceived brand safety on advertisers as they responded to the dangers of being positioned next to toxic content online. User generated content has long been known to have a significant toxic element. By removing this basic, essential function on Pinterest, the platform has put itself in a position where brands will need to consider whether they stay on the platform. If they decide it is unsafe then it’s possible that the platform will experience its own ‘Kylie Jenner’ Snapchat moment, which, as we saw, resulted in $1.3bn being wiped off Snapchat’s market value.

Major brands are major influencers. They attract millions of users and in turn spend millions on advertising. Without them, Pinterest is back to how it started – a pin board for nice cakes. 

Julia Ruane

Written by Julia Ruane

Julia is Head of PR & Content at Crisp. A self-confessed tech geek, Julia has followed every social media trend since twitter was just making it big in Australia.

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