April 8, 2021
Pinterest anti vaccination ban

Pinterest Finds a Clever Solution to Deal with the Spread of Misinformation — Block It from Search Results

A new Pinterest anti-vaccination ban, enacted to help stop the spread of unsubstantiated information, puts pressure on other social networks to follow…

Misleading headlines and click bait are one thing. But, unsubstantiated information is another. Not surprisingly, these are the sorts of materials which get shared most on social media.

Now, Pinterest has come up with a clever way to stop it from spamming its search results — block it.

Pinterest Blocks Anti-Vaccination Search Results to Combat the Spread of Misinformation

Certain subjects help perpetuate conspiracies. For instance, vaccinations. This particular topic is a very controversial one. In an effort to curb the spread of misinformation, Pinterest simply removed the subject of vaccinations from its search results. 

Robert McMillan and Daniela Hernandez write the following in The Wall Street Journal

“Pinterest has stopped returning results for searches related to vaccinations, a drastic step the social-media company said is aimed at curbing the spread of misinformation but one that demonstrates the power of tech companies to censor discussion of hot-button issues.

Most shared images on Pinterest relating to vaccination cautioned against it, contradicting established medical guidelines and research showing that vaccines are safe, Pinterest said. The image-searching platform tried to remove the anti-vaccination content, a Pinterest spokeswoman said, but has been unable to remove it completely.”

Put another way, Pinterest merely acted on what’s known as a “data void.” Here’s an explanation:

“A situation where searching for answers about a keyword returns content produced by a niche group with a particular agenda. It isn’t just Google results—keyword voids are happening on social too. The most shared articles about vitamin K on Facebook are anti-vax, and the CrowdTangle analytics platform shows those articles are reaching an audience of millions. YouTube results are no better; several of the top 10 results feature notable immunology expert Alex Jones.”

Just two years ago, in 2017, Pinterest was littered with this sort of misinformation. Now, it’s taken bold steps to help clean up its platform. While this doesn’t stop people from putting such content on their own profiles, it does prevent it from going into search, where anyone can access it.

William Boleys

Will is an experienced freelance writer who covers a wide range of topics, including apps, social media, and search.

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