Can Pinterest Keep Spammers and Scammers At Bay?

Pinterest, the fastest-growing new social networking website and virtual scrapbooking site, is heaven for those of us who love scouring the internet for design inspiration. Whenever I see a product I like or an image that inspires me I no longer have to save it to the bottomless pit of my hard drive. I can just "pin" it. I am able to collect cool ideas, tag products I covet (or may actually buy), and gather images that together constitute my own dynamic aesthetic. But is Pinterest being sabotaged by spammers and scammers? I was an early adopter on Pinterest and use it every day. It is clean, simple, practical, and wonderfully fun. Not only can I scrapbook my own pins, I can also peruse others' pins, "following" people who inspire me. What is so great about Pinterest is that when someone clicks on a pin they are directed to the site where the image was found. Clicking through pins, I've discovered new design bloggers, Etsy stores and retailers I may not have otherwise discovered.

But I have always suspected Pinterest is just too good to be true. It seemed too pure, too honest and too devoid of spam and suffocating attacks from e-commerce marketing. So it is with little surprise that lately I have found myself clicking on an image only to be directed to an unrelated cheap-o site for an unrelated product. There also seem to be far more product promotion pins than before. What is going on?

According to the tech journalists who track these things, Pinterest has indeed become the latest target for spammers who are profiting off the site's obvious potential as an e-commerce and marketing platform. What makes Pinterest such a fruitful target for marketers is its genuine "trust factor"; the idea that real people are sharing their real opinions, tastes and experiences. If Pinterest loses this trust from its users, its fundamental appeal could be compromised.

According to this excellent article in the Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail, fake accounts are being formatted to automatically generate clicks, "crowd out other content and drive links to advertised products." And these fake-looking Pinterest accounts are automatically re-pinning items over and over again until they appear on the site's "Popular" tab.

Tech blog The Daily Dot uncovered a Pinterest spammer who created multiple fake accounts with posts linking to Amazon.com; if users click through the post to buy, the spammer gets a referral fee from Amazon. This self-described "Pinterest spammer" told the Daily Dot that he makes $1,000 a day from the affiliate links.

In response, Pinterest has been scrambling to address spamming and manipulative practices on its site. The Popularity policy has already been altered to restrict promoted items. Let's hope Pinterest fights a good fight so we can continue to enjoy this ingenious website!

Have you noticed a change in Pinterest? What kinds of scams have you encountered?

(Image: The Daily Dot)

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