The Fight Against Pinterest Spam

Like Twitter and Facebook before it, Pinterest has a sordid past with spammers. Learn why Pinterest spam is so prevalent and how you can help.

The Fight Against Pinterest Spam

A few weeks ago, I received an email from Stephen, a Dublin based technology & digital marketing consultant, asking why Pinterest was stripping his Amazon affiliate links. Because this was a question I didn’t know the answer to – and one I hadn’t yet looked into – I began digging and found what turned into an interesting look at Pinterest’s fight against spam. From the spammer who made thousands of dollars off of Pinterest users, to the everyday annoyance of a spam-ridden group board, the fight against Pinterest spam has been an uphill battle.

The Hay-Day of Spammers

Ever since it’s 2010 launch, Pinterest has been seen as an easy target by spammers. With help from spam-bots (which are sadly readily available for purchase online) spammers were able to pin thousands of fake links everyday. While spamming may seem pointless to most of us on the site, spammers can make serious cash for their efforts. In March of 2012, one spammer told The Daily Dot that he was making “$1000 a day, and out of his thousands of spambots, Pinterest… only deleted one.” Thanks to affiliate programs through sites likes Amazon, thousands of spammers flooded Pinterest, seeing it as a simple target for fast cash.

How Pinterest is Trying to Stop Spam

Seeing spam as a growing problem, Pinterest rolled out their blocking and reporting feature in October of 2012. This gave users the power to help Pinterest in their fight against spammers. Since the release, users can report someone based on various conditions, including spam. After a pin or user is reported, Pinterest will check it out and delete the account and the pin if they go against Pinterest’s terms of service.

Although Pinterest has had a sorted past with their own affiliate links, the site also implemented Amazon affiliate link stripping in the hopes of deterring spammers from taking over. This means that when someone pins from their affiliate site, Pinterest will remove their affiliate ID from the pin URL. While the pin will still take the user to the item featured, it will no longer give the affiliate credit for the purchase. Although link stripping does make a spammers job more difficult, it also makes honest affiliates jobs – like Stephen’s –  harder.

How You Can Help

So long as the Internet exists, there will be spammers. However, you can help Pinterest in their fight against the spammers. As mentioned above, you can report both pins and pinners to Pinterest when you see spammy activity to help their spam-spotters know who to target. Spammers often like to target group boards, so if you have a group board and notice spammers are starting to take over, go ahead and throw them off the board (and then report them, of course). It’s also a good idea to have a system in place for users to join your group board. You can require them to email you, Tweet at you, Facebook you, etc. with their Pinterest username so you know that they are 1. a real person, and 2. serious about joining your boards for the right reason.

Can you think of other ways to help fight spam on Pinterest? Let us know in the comments! 

About Melissa Megginson

Melissa Megginson is resident Marketing Manager and Cat Lady at Tailwind, the leading Pinterest tool for brands. Melissa specializes in content creation, social media, blogging, PR outreach and pretty much all things marketing. Find her on Twitter and Instagram at @MelMegg.

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  • http://whiteglovesocialmedia.com/ Anna Bennett

    Nice post Melissa! First you’re absolutely right – group board are notorious for spams. I have left a few group boards because of this very reason.

    The reality is most pinners aren’t not going to go through the steps of checking the links of items they pin & in their eyes they shouldn’t have to. Those who join group boards don’t always read the rules that the moderator has set. So bottom line it’s up to pinner who owns the group board to check for spams – it’s easy to do but VERY time consuming.

    It’s like throwing a party – don’t expect your visitors to clean up the mess – it’s your job as a host to do that. If you want to grow your followers it’s the owners job to remove those nasty spams. It others report it or make a comment that it’s a spam consider it as a gift.

    • Melissa Megginson

      I love that analogy, Anna! Pinterest is supposed to be a fun place – much like a party – and cleaning up the mess is an unfortunate side effect of hosting. You’re also absolutely right that fellow group board members can make the clean up process easier by commenting on what’s spam. Seeing those comments make it instantly obvious what needs to go.

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  • http://www.socialbeesmedia.com/ Jenny Frances

    Very informative post Melissa! I tend to agree with Anna though, it is very time consuming cleaning up spam from group boards. It is becoming a major problem for Pinterest, and one way of cutting down spam would be to only allow the group board owner to invite others, why can’t the people over at Pinterest do that?

    • Melissa Megginson

      That’s a great suggestion, Jenny! Even the ability to set people as “moderators” of the board, who could add and delete as they see fit, could help cut down on the spread of spam.

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  • Rocky

    Unfortunately Pinterest is now perpetuating its own spam – “Related Pins”
    Like all spam it’s something I don’t want to see, something that came without my request or agreement, promoting something I have no wish for, profiting only the poster (Pinterest) self interest, and irritating the heck out of me. Seriously – they have the stuff at the bottom when you post that tells where it came from. THAT’S ENOUGH

    • Danny Maloney

      Thanks for the comment, Rocky. To be honest, I’ve found great use of Related Pins since Pinterest started promoting them. My feed of users I was following was getting a bit stale, but I didn’t always have time to hunt down new ones. Since the launch, I’m finding more interesting content and have felt my own experience improve.

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  • http://www.travelchicks.tv Kinda Wilson

    This is very interesting to me, as ours is an affiliate site as well. I would love to be able to create a board of products that we recommend, clearly state on the picture our affiliate relationship, and then include a link with the picture. (As we do on our site).

    Melissa, you mentioned making sure that what we do coincides with the terms of service. I’ve read through all of their terms of service, and I can’t find any mention of affiliate links being unacceptable? Do they state that anywhere? I don’t want to include links if they are not acceptable (we definitely can’t risk getting our account shut down, and we don’t want to be unethical). BUT if it IS allowed, I would love to be able to use this as a potential revenue stream for our company. Thoughts?

    PS we love Tailwindapp! We’re from Tulsa and recently saw Tailwindapp present at a One Million Cups Entrepreneurship meeting there.

    –Kinda at TravelChicks.tv

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  • ashinningstar2012

    This is excellent advice. I have a large Pinterest following (61,000+) and some very popular group boards and was plagued with spammers. One night I spent 4hrs. deleting spammers from my group boards. Finally I discovered Pinterest implemented a feature that allows ONLY YOU CAN ADD OTHER COLLABORATORS to your group board. This ultimately blocked pinners in your group from adding SPAMMERS to your board. The pin bots would make up fictions names. Some pinners intentionally added spammers and some were not aware they were spammers. To be added to my boards, I request that you email me. I always check out their profile. First: They should have some type of profile pic, a fair amount of pins, likes and followers. I always check out their blog, facebook, twitter or any social media sight they share. This gave me an indication on the type of pins they will post.
    I personally respond to all of my emails.