Despite Ban, Pinterest Still Full Of “Self-Harming” Thinspo Content [UPDATED]

There’s a lot of stuff on the internet. This might sound obvious, and it is – but just think about how many different ideas are expressed throughout all the little nooks and crannies of th...
Despite Ban, Pinterest Still Full Of “Self-Harming” Thinspo Content [UPDATED]
Written by Josh Wolford
  • There’s a lot of stuff on the internet. This might sound obvious, and it is – but just think about how many different ideas are expressed throughout all the little nooks and crannies of the interwebs. It’s inevitable that some stuff out there is going to piss some people off.

    Some of the most recent types of content causing a stir are “pro-ana,” “pro-mia,” and “thinspo” blogs that promote people (admittedly, mostly girls) to stay thin – dangerously thin in the eyes of some. “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” is the type of advice you might find tagged “thinspo” (short for thinspiration) somewhere online. Plus, you’ll also find images of thin (mostly) women, as they serve as a visual motivator for girls who want to become or stay skinny.

    There are mixed feelings about this sort of thing, as would be expected. Should sites police this type of content? Is it just free speech, like minded people discussing a life choice? Or is is promotion and glorification of harmful activities?

    Earlier this month, super-popular blog platform Tumblr sided with the latter argument. They instituted a policy that disallows users to “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…”

    Tumblr later clarified that the new policy would only prohibit blogs that were “dedicated to triggering self-harm,” and it wouldn’t affect those that are about discussion of issues like anorexia and bulimia.

    Over the weekend, Pinterest followed suit. On a blog post last Friday, they announced that they had updated their Acceptable Use Policy in order to not allow “pins that explicitly encourage self-harm of self-abuse.”

    The actual new provision to the policy reads that users cannot post 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.”

    Many have said that Pinterest bowed to the pressure of those that are against “thinspo” content. One of the main critiques that caught fire was a March 19th article on Jezebel called “The Scary, Weird World of Pinterest Thinspo Boards.” That article quoted someone from the National Eating Disorders Association that broke down why Pinterest was such a good place for Thinspo to reside:

    Pinterest is a format that’s attractive to the pro-ana community because it’s both visual and highly interactive; young women (and some men) suffering from an eating disorder or teetering on the brink of disorder crave the unique combination of visibility and anonymity offered by the site. Pinterest users can swap photos of their most enviable shoulder blades in a supportive “community” of like-minded people, but because it’s on the internet they can do it from behind the protection of an anonymous handle.

    So, advocates of sites banning this type of content can rejoice at Pinterest‘s decision, right? Wrong, at least so far. Mashable points out that thinspo pins and board are still alive and well all over Pinterest.

    And it’s true. A quick search for thinspo within Pinterest yields tons of images of thin girls, motivational images with text like “You will regret eating that cookie, you will not regret running that mile” and “unless you puke, faint, or die, keep going.” These aren’t just ramdom pins, as there are also still plenty of boards left devoted to nothing but thinspo – many of them have hundreds of followers.

    I’m truly of mixed mind about this. I completely see the problem with blogs or pinboards dedicated to making sure girls stay thin. Not that thin girls are a problem, mind you, but because in the context of “thinspo” or “pro ana,” the practices that are encouraged to help them get/stay thin are unhealthy. There is a lot of variety on pins tagged thinspo on Pinterest, however. Many of the images, motivational posters, etc. aren’t promoting anorexia or bulimia specifically. Many promote exercise, and although some may be a little extreme, who should tell people that they are exercising too hard (besides maybe a doctor)?

    Not all of the images of girls taged thinspo are too thin either. Of course, this is not a scientific statement and I don’t know the girls’ weight or BMI, but the eye test tells me that many of the girls in the images aren’t unhealthy.

    Some of the images are scary though. And even the images that seems rather innocuous, when put into the context of a thinspo board, become helpers to an unhealthy (read anorexic) lifestyle. And i think that context has as much to do with it than anything.

    What do you think about thinspo content, and sities like Tumblr and Pinterest‘s decision to ban it? Are you concerned that this content still exists on Pinterest, even after they updated their policies? Let us know in the comments.

    UPDATE: We’ve received the following statement from a Pinterest spokesperson:

    Pinterest relies on its community to help identify and flag offensive content. Once offensive content has been reported, Pinterest reviews it on a case-by-case basis and immediately removes any pin that violates the Terms of Service, Acceptable Use Policy or Pin Etiquette.

    Basically, they’ll come down when they’re reported. Last night, I spoke to an avid Pinterest user who said that over the weekend, they’ve personally noticed that the amount of thinspo pins (especially images of thin women) present on the site was far less than last week.

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