Pinterest has become the first major social media platform to ban weight loss advertisements on the site.
The policy covers advertisements that include testimonials about weight loss or weight loss products, as well as ads that reference body mass index (BMI) or similar metrics, and more. According to the company, ads promoting healthy lifestyles, habits or fitness services and products will still be allowed, so long as they do not “focus on weight loss.”
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.
Since 2019, new UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) rules have prohibited advertising that includes “gender stereotypes that are likely to cause harm, or serious or widespread offence”. However, “perfect” body imagery can be harmful to both men and women, so it does not fall directly under these standards.
Nevertheless, change is happening in the advertising industry, with more advertising that shows realistic body images, for example the Sport England “This Girl Can” campaign.
Pinterest is a social media site where users can save images of décor, fashion, recipes and craft ideas to collections they curate. It’s a virtual pinboard, essentially. Users can search for almost any topic and find thousands of images to bookmark for inspiration.
The world’s 14th most used social platform, Pinterest’s user base skews young and female. Its key ad audiences are women between 25-34, according to a 2021 report from social media management platform HootSuite.
Dr. Deborah Glasofer, a clinical psychologist at the Columbia Center for Eating Disorders in New York City, said that the further restrictions on weight loss ads was a positive step for the digital pinboard site, especially when it comes to accommodating users who may have or be in recovery from an eating disorder.
“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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