About a year ago, I joined a new web service to collect visual inspiration for personal and professional use.
Simple premise. You created boards according to a certain subject matter, you ‘pinned’ web images with tags, sources, prices, witty comments, etc. You follow people, they may follow you back. Pinterest seemed like fun and I was pretty much hooked from the get-go.
I created various boards dedicated to design, typography, art, tattoos (I know—original!). Other users seem to like my visual content which is gauged by ‘repins’ or ‘followers’. Everything was hunkydory.
Then during a cool June evening, I received a seemingly innocuous email that changed things.
Hi Dominic Coballe,
This is Ben, the cofounder of Pinterest.com. We don’t allow some objectionable or risque content on Pinterest. The reason is that we’re still a young company and many of our users want to use Pinterest as a professional tool with clients. We don’t like the idea of censoring content, but until we have a better filtering system, we had to remove your pin, “Um, yeah.” from your board “Ink Well”.
Could you please delete any additional pins containing this sort of content and refrain from pinning (or repinning) similar pins in the future?
Please feel free to get in touch should you have any questions. Thanks as always for supporting Pinterest.
First off, nothing screams out form email more than addressing people with their first and last name. But it was fitting because I was kind of being reprimanded. DON’T DO IT AGAIN…please. My wife uses my full name when I am in trouble, so did some teachers, but Ben, cofounder of Pinterest? But I get it. Their company, their rules.
Here is the image in question NSFWBOAESEN (Not safe for work because of an exposed slightly erect nipple):
I read it, then re-read it several times. It felt disingenuous and then it started to bother me. What are we talking about here? The nipple? If you spend a few minutes on Pinterest, you see nudity in various levels, you will also see blatant sexuality that would make truckers blush. Was this a totally random, yet random airport body search? I mean, this is a service that its entire reason for being is the repurposing of other people’s work (art, writings, photos, etc). Some prudes among us may even say it’s copyright infringement. Not me, but if we’re going to play this game of righteousness…
I wanted to learn more and I did have questions, so I replied to Ben, cofounder of Pinterest.
Hey Ben, cofounder of Pinterest,
I understand the points you made, but I have to scratch my head when I routinely see “objectionable” content on the Pinterest’s home page. Such this board: http://pinterest.com/brittalou/intimate/ just seconds ago. I personally don’t find the board offensive, they all have some photographic merit, the same as the pin I posted. The tattoo was the reason I added the image, it happened to be on the canvas of a naked woman. The image was taken by a renowned Toronto photographer.
I like Pinterest for the fact that it seems that the members have an artful eye with their content, unlike other services like FFFFound, etc.
The removal of this pin does not bother me at all, but you can see that there’s some dissonance in the message I am receiving from Pinterest.
Pinterest is a great source of inspiration for lovers of art, design and culture, I hope it remains so.
I know the rule, it’s a free service and if you dont like it then leave it. My issue is the authenticity of the email or lack there of. Censorship floats in some murky waters, don’t dip your boat into it unless you are ready and willing to engage in an actual conversation about the matter.
I had thoughts of posting this way back when it occurred but decided against it. I tried to take Ben, cofounder of Pinterest’s point of view. I assumed that he didn’t enjoy writing that email.
But the recent media uproar about MIA’s Super Bowl bird reminded me of this incident. What is it about a finger or the female nipple that offends our society so much? Violence is served by the dump truck load on the daily, but a single sight of a tiny part of the human (female) anatomy whips people into action.
If Pinterest had reached out to me asking me to be less clichéd with my boards or pins, I would have understood. But labeling this image ‘objectionable’ was just silly. I am still on Pinterest, but it just isn’t the same as before. The love isn’t there anymore.
As of today, I have not heard back from Ben, cofounder of Pinterest.