The battle over misinformation amid the COVID-19 pandemic has pitted health experts, parts of the public, and the leaders of online platforms against one another.
So far, one social media giant seems to be winning the fight against falsehoods: Pinterest.
The company, which made a name for itself as an idea collection platform for everything from clothing trends to healthy recipes, has taken a hardline strategy against health misinformation, and in particular, vaccine falsehoods. Pinterest has a zero-tolerance vaccine misinformation policy, a team tasked with enforcing it, and a flexible approach that accounts for emerging intel from health authorities.
Pinterest’s strategy appears to run in stark contrast to that of Facebook, which has seen misinformation run rampant. Facebook, which has frequently cited free speech as a reason for leaving potentially harmful posts untouched, has drawn criticism from health experts who say the social network hasn’t done enough to combat it. Some experts say it could stand to take a page from Pinterest.
“Pinterest’s results suggest that if Facebook scaled up its moderation, it might get further,” said Neil Johnson, professor of physics and researcher at the Institute for Data, Democracy, and Politics at George Washington University.
The crux of Pinterest’s anti-misinformation arsenal is its mission statement: Inspire people to do the things they love. Unlike Facebook, which is centered around connection — negative or positive — Pinterest has a narrower, more positivity-minded focus. The company’s emphasis on fostering inspiration carries over to its misinformation policies.
“There’s nothing inspiring about harmful misinformation that might affect your health or your family’s health or your community’s health,” said Sarah Bromma, the company’s head of policy.
The strategy isn’t perfect, of course. There’s still an abundance of “pin” collections that encourage non-evidence-based