Kudos to Pinterest

I’ve never been a fan of censorship, but…

But sometimes, the real issue is bigger than censorship.

And that is the case with Pinterest and anti-vaccination propaganda.

According to an article in today’s 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.
  • 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 antivaccination content, a Pinterest spokeswoman said, but has been unable to remove it completely.
  • Pinterest described the search ban as a temporary but necessary measure until it can develop better strategies to sift through what it calls “polluted” content. 
  • Users can still pin vaccine-related images to their online boards, which could lead to suggestions for similar content, but the posts no longer show up in searches.

Ifeoma Ozoma, Pinterest’s public policy and social impact manager, said that “it’s better not to serve those results than to lead people down what is like a recommendation rabbit hole.”

Now I understand there is a thin line between letting influential social media firms like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest decide which content we should be allowed to post and see versus allowing complete freedom of speech on such platforms.

Such companies feel pressure from people on both sides of an issue, whether it’s vaccination, climate change, or immigration. Should such firms get to decide which content gets posted and displayed on its sites, or should there be no censorship?

To me, the companies should clearly have control the final say. They are private companies; they should get to decide what type of info gets posted to its servers. If you don’t like a particular social media company’s censorship policies, then just find somewhere else to share your message.

If there is nowhere else, then build your own social media company. If that’s not a possibility, then spread your message the way it would have been spread 40 years ago using word of mouth and traditional media.

Now my sense is that most of these social media firms would prefer not to be involved in censoring user content, but sometimes the evidence is so overwhelming on certain issues it would be wrong to ignore it, particularly if there are health or safety implications associated with such decisions.

And that is the case with vaccination.

Pinterest trains and uses human reviewers to make determinations about whether or not shared images on the site, called pins, violate its health-misinformation guidelines. The reviewers rely on information from the World Health Organization, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics to judge the veracity of content.

The evidence from those sites is pretty clear on the benefits of vaccinations, and the dangers of not being vaccinated, and I admire Pinterest’s willingness to take a stand on the issue.

Now I hope they do the same with gun control.

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