Pinterest: Blocking Spammers

Pinterest chooses not to let users block spammers, encouraging users to report the spammers to them instead. Risks: legal, costly, membership loss.

Pinterest chooses not to let users block spammers, encouraging users to report the spammers to them instead. Talk about making a rod for your own back!
I never know whether to be amused or irritated when I see new social networks repeat old errors. In Pinterest’s case, they refuse to give users tools to manage their own networks.


Spammers can  tag you in Pins, meaning you get an email each time “Weight loss- how I lost 20lbs” or “Viagra special offer!!” over and over and over. Oh Joy. Oh Bliss. You can’t filter or block spammers, only send an email to Customer Service.

Impact – Customer Service

Customer Service will be INUNDATED. Instead of an automated message telling users how to block ex friends they have had an argument with, members that are trolling them or spammers selling them stuff, Customer Service has to deal with each request. How many staff do you need for 10.4 million members who see something they don’t like?

Impact: Loss of membership

I’m debating a) removing all email notification (not good) or b) deleting my Pinterest account (worse). For a network 80% women, to not be able to block abusive, intrusive or spammy messages is a massive oversight. Forcing users to turn off email to remove inappropriate communications will lose Pinterest an important distribution channel (no emails means less and less reason to come back to Pinterest). And when women delete social networking accounts they attempt to incite others to do so as well. Never a good thing to build an anti community as you build the Pinterest community.

Impact: Legal

This lack of social management tools is a lawsuit in the making. There just needs to be ONE harassment situation where Customer Service fails to respond (the “report this user” link on email is broken) and the Judge will cite Facebook & Twitter ability to block users as a tool to remove unwanted members from contacting you & Pinterest will face as big a risk as the copyright battles.


Helping members feel safe is Online Community Management 101 & apropos Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, functionally imperative.

NOT to include member to member management tools is costly in staff, time, risk, and loss of members. Add a damn Block button already! Sheesh

PS This is the kind of basic error that happens when too many geeky boys create a social network based around tech & don’t let the humanities/social psych peeps have a say. Typical of Google too …

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  6. Oh wow, really, a lawsuit, over customer service?

    I don’t use or advocate for Pinterest, but, really a lawsuit when we know in time the tools will be created as there are many people wanting the same tools.

    The users are the copyright abusers, aren’t they?

  7. That’s rich, coming from people who think nothing of abusing the copyrights of artists and eroding at their living, to threaten lawsuits over spam for “harassment.”

    The same people that feel protected against copyright lawsuit because of their numbers, and that count of the cost and difficulty involved in a lawsuit to flaunt the law.

    Thanks for the laugh.

    1. @Gorm Have you actually used Pinterest?

      I do have a Pinterest account, and whenever I have added pictures and the like to my boards, there is always a link back to the website from which the picture came. What more can I do to reference the original creator?

      It is certainly not stealing nor abusing copyright when there is reference to the original site or article, I don’t see how we are abusing copyright. If anything we are actually sharing the copyright owners work with more people than their creation would otherwise see. I actually see Pinterest as beneficial, even more so than Twitter because I don’t have to leave a link back to the original location.

      1. Andrew,
        The problem is that where you got the image from may not be the original owner of the image. The cute animal pictures for example are notorious for not being posted from the original owner of the image. That’s the bad part of image sharing.

        If I see something pinned I do the research to make sure that was the original source. If not in my pin I link to the original source and note if it was marked sharable or use their PinIt button.

        1. This then goes back to the adage, that unless you want your pictures/photos/etc shared on the internet, don’t publish it ever.

          I know what you are trying to say, but how do you trace a photo back to the original owner, especially if watermarks have been cropped off images, etc.?

          1. You can do an image search to try and find the original owner.

            Yes, that might not help but it’s better to be safe than sorry.

            You therefore agree that any User Content that you post to the Service does not and will not violate any law or infringe the rights of any third party, including without limitation any Intellectual Property Rights (defined below), publicity rights or rights of privacy.
            Pinterest / Terms of Service – item d ii under Third Party

          2. Pinterest has its terms of service, so it’s a decent thing to do to try to attribute each piece, but we have no legal duty to do so. And in the case of general internet use, U.S. Copyright Law places the onus of copyright protection on the artist. There are a number of ways for artists who post original work – say, a photograph – to protect that image (software protections, small or low res imaging, signing, a copyright tag, etc.). But if an artist posts an original work at full dpi in a large format with no protections, Copyright says it’s Artist Beware.

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  9. Wow. Haven’t run into this problem yet.

    Have noticed some potential spam type people following me but just didn’t follow back.

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  13. Hey Laurel. This has been really concerning me recently as well, so I’m glad you’ve raised the issue. I agree that community monitoring is not enough. It feels like they are kind of washing their hands of the problem. And as you mention, if they don’t start to be proactive on this issue, there could be a watershed loss of members. And when women start a movement, other women tend to follow with gusto!

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  23. God forbid anyone should see the thumbnail that Pinterest gives you, click on it and then buy the full version from a photographer or artists website *sarcasm* (Pinterest has a thumbnail service, but otherwise it’s an embed from the original site).

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  27. I do have a pinterest account now. I have not known about spammers but will definitely report one. I always value privacy and I am easily annoyed by how this irrelevant ads appear on my email although some do catch my attention but only a fraction of the entire emails i receive a day. I hate it when apps are unprotected and spammers gets thru my email! For pinterest i guess what we are lacking is our power to manage. Anyways as long as they get rid of those spammers, I’m good!

  28. Getting fed up with pinterest keep getting a board on my accout and keep reporting it to them but they do nothing. Is there anyway stopping spammers putting a board up

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