Pinterest makes progress

Social media site Pinterest adjusted its Terms of Service to ban all content that encourages self-harm and self-abuse. The March 23 announcement follows a similar move from Tumblr in February.

It’s a change targeted at thinspo boards — thinspiration includes photos, notes and mottos that encourage viewers to lose unhealthy and extreme amounts of weight. Thinspo has close links to pro-anorexia and pro-bulimia communities.

While it’s debatable whether this change will help to reduce eating disorders, it’s important for Pinterest to take a firm stance. Restricting content can be troublesome for free speech, but there’s no space online for sites that encourage self-harm.

Online communities are often mistaken for public forums, but Pinterest and Tumblr are privately-owned sites that can moderate content as they wish. Tumblr released a statement saying, “We are deeply committed to supporting and defending our users’ freedom of speech, but we do draw some limits. As a company, we’ve decided that some specific kinds of content aren’t welcome on Tumblr.”

These sites have decided to condemn glamouized shots of people who are unhealthy and emaciated.

Pinterest and Tumblr have recognized their influence and want users to be responsible when uploading content.

Sites have values and user-generated content needs to comply with these values. Pinterest should follow the lead set by Tumblr and display public service announcements (PSAs) alongside certain search results.

On Tumblr, searches for words related to self-harm like “pro-ana,” “thinspo,” “thinspiration” and “purge” yield a PSA with encouragement to find help.

“Eating disorders can cause serious health problems,” the PSAs read, “and at their most severe can even be life-threatening.” Links to help lines or online resource are also included.

In 2010, the United Kingdom’s Royal College of Psychiatrists released a study drawing attention to the cultural causes of eating disorders including anorexia nervosa and bulimia.

The study called for a new “editorial code” to end promotion of the thin body ideal. Pinterest and Tumblr’s decision to put an end to thinspiration isn’t a cure-all for self-image issues, but these sites are making strides towards building a culture with a healthier perspective.

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