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Pinterest bans ads related to weight loss

By Clare Duffy, CNN Business

Pinterest on Thursday announced that it will ban all advertisements related to weight loss from its platform in an effort to prevent content that could encourage unhealthy or disordered eating habits.

The bookmarking site said it will also prohibit ads with language or images that promote or disparage certain body types.

“There’s been a steep rise in unhealthy eating habits and eating disorders in young people since the Covid-19 pandemic started last year,” Pinterest said in a statement, citing data from the National Eating Disorders Association.

The policy goes into effect Thursday. As with all online content moderation policies, however, the challenge for platforms is usually not setting the rule so much as enforcing it and ensuring no one circumvents the policy.

While Pinterest is often thought of as a feel-good corner of the internet, it used to have a problem with content that promoted potentially harmful eating and lifestyle habits, sometimes known as “thinspiration,” “thinspo” or “pro-anorexia.” Pinterest banned such content in 2012, but pro-eating disorder content has been found on the platform in the years since.

The company said Thursday that it previously barred some advertisements related to weight loss, including ads containing before-and-after weight loss images, weight loss pills or procedures, and “body shaming.”

But its new policy is intended to go further by banning all ads with weight loss language and imagery, including testimonials regarding weight loss or weight loss products and references to Body Mass Index or similar indexes. Pinterest said it is the “only major platform” to prohibit such ads.

We encourage others in the industry to do the same and acknowledge, once and for all, that there’s no such thing as one-size-fits-all,” the company said.

Ads promoting “healthy lifestyles” or fitness products and services will still be permitted on Pinterest, so long as they don’t focus on weight loss, the company said. Pinterest developed the policy with guidance from the National Eating Disorders Association.

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