New anti-spam measures could punish Pinterest power users

Pinterest's unique platform makes it a much larger threat for a deluge of spam. (Image courtesy of Digital Trends)
Pinterest's unique platform makes it a much larger threat for a deluge of spam. (Image courtesy of Digital Trends)

By Molly McHugh
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One of the problems plaguing Pinterest is spam. The site's viral nature, emphasis on images, and lack of human interaction (or filters like friends lists) make it a very inviting space for spammers. While the site has managed to accrue an impressive amount of users, the incredible number of fake accounts out there is staggering. There are even spam bot collections available for purchase that allow you to troll your way through the site and profit off of user clicks.

Pinterest clearly has to address the mounting problem before its platform is oversaturated with faux users and scams (like a recent naked-Justin-Bieber scam that hit the site -- yes, really), and even malware.

Last week, the company addressed the spam complaints and criticisms. "As Pinterest grows, spammers have also grown within our community," the Pinterest blog reads. "While the technology we use to detect spam becomes more advanced each day, we want Pinners to know what to do in case you come across suspicious content or links while browsing Pinterest." Pinterest says you should report pins from fake accounts, and also lists a few tips on avoiding spam, such as returning to Pinterest if an image's link isn't what it should be and avoiding anything advertising giveaways.

Honestly, that doesn't seem like nearly enough. Internet spam has been a problem since personal email first existed, and it's simply become an accepted hazard of being online. But Pinterest's unique platform makes it a much larger threat, and it's early startup stage means that it needs to keep things running smoothly for users.

While that might sound like a lazy prescription for avoiding spam, it appears that site is taking a heavier-handed approach than it let on.

PediaStaff, a resource for children's healthcare, runs an incredibly popular Pinterest board that drives traffic to its site. But staffers have had some hiccups in accessing and using their account lately. First, commenting was disabled after administrator Heidi Kay had been too actively trying to create discussion. "In order to effectively manage a discussion, I need to make as many as 10 to 12 comments in order to call attention to and to direct you to the ‘master pin' where therapists can later go to read the collected ideas and comments," Kay wrote on her site's blog. "Unfortunately, Pinterest is not happy with a single person making comments at once -- even on their own boards -- and if you even three in short order, you can be ‘locked out' of being able to comment for as much as 24 hours."

According to LLSocial, Kay was also unable to pin anything on Pinterest after a CAPTCHA wouldn't verify her as a human user. She entered the correct characters, but they went unrecognized.

Obviously these are methods to ensnare spammers, and they very well could be working. The problem is that Pinterest power users are being caught in the crosshairs. And there are a lot of them: Marketers have realized the power of the platform and they are using it to generate tons of traffic for their sites. People are very quickly coming to rely on Pinterest for getting eyes on their products, pages, or those of their clients'. It's creating jobs -- managing and creating Pinterest campaigns is a thing  you can get paid for now. It's all happening so fast, and the company is still playing catch up. Until it does, Pinterest's most active users might have some frustrations ahead of them.

It makes you wonder how effective Pinterest is as a blogging platform. Pinterest doesn't promote it as such, but many people use it that way -- it's driving attention to something they want to promote, be it an idea or a physical product, and attempting to create discussion. But maybe that's not how it's supposed to be used, and this is how we're going to find out Pinterest isn't a catch-all.

You can't blame everyone for trying to make the site work for their purposes: The eyes are there, they had to give it a shot. But perhaps now is the time to narrow the Pinterest niche. 

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