nbc news has found that Pinterest’s recommendation algorithms make it easy for pedophiles to create boards full of images of underage girls. After an initial search, Pinterest will start suggesting related searches that can be easily misused. The images themselves sometimes receive sexual comments.
nbc notes that it found no child sexual abuse material (CSAM) during its investigation. However, the people creating the creepy boards sometimes had collections that contained pornography despite Pinterest’s ban on that content. The social site has also had no direct ways to report attempts to sexualize content with minors. While Pinterest’s policies prohibit the practice, users have had to rely on reporting categories that don’t fit well (such as “nudity or pornography”) and haven’t had the option to report on entire boards.
Pinterest tells Engadget that it takes this content “very seriously” and is taking multiple actions that could help. He will begin rolling out a board reporting option next week and will soon offer expanded profile reporting tools that include content related to minors. In response to nbcSpokesperson Crystal Espinosa says the company also plans to beef up its AI moderation (it also uses human moderators) to catch some violators automatically, and will add new age verification systems.
The revelations are significant in part because of Pinterest’s aggressive stance toward moderation compared to other platforms: It’s one of the few that bans misinformation. At the same time, the findings underscore deficiencies in the company’s reporting tools and recommendation engine. Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok all have ways to directly report content involving children.
There is also political pressure to act. President Biden recently called on Congress and the tech giants to improve online safety for children. The Senate Judiciary Committee, meanwhile, held a hearing echoing those calls. Pinterest isn’t in immediate danger of a regulatory crackdown (it’s legal to create these collections), but it’s also not guaranteed to avoid scrutiny.