Pinterest will ban advertisements for weight loss products, making it the first major tech platform to do so and amid an uptick in eating disorders during the pandemic.
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Pinterest said Wednesday it will prohibit ads that include weight loss language or imagery, customer testimonials related to weight loss, ads that “idealize or denigrate” specific body types, any references to Body Mass Index and similar measurements, and any product that claims it can cause weight loss from topical application.
Pinterest will still allow brands to advertise healthy lifestyles and habits as long as the ads don’t focus on weight loss, Pinterest policy lead Sarah Bromma told Forbes.
“We know many people come to Pinterest to find inspiration on healthy living and healthy lifestyles and fitness tips, and we’re continuing to allow people to search for that content, if they choose to do so,” Bromma said.
It’s an expansion of an existing ban on ads for appetite suppressants, weight loss surgeries, before-and-after images and any ads that feature body shaming, Bromma said.
The new policy was developed with help from the National Eating Disorders Association, which says it has detected a steep rise in eating disorders and unhealthy habits, counting more than a 40% jump in demand for its helplines amid the coronavirus pandemic and lockdowns.
Pinterest declined to disclose to Forbes how much revenue the types of ads it’s banning brought in or how many advertisers will be affected, but advertising intelligence firm MediaRadar said weight loss brands have boosted advertising spend across platforms this year, including on Facebook, which saw a 120% jump in ad spending during the first six months of 2021 compared to the previous year.
“As people are coming out from Covid-19 pandemic restrictions and kicking off the summer, there’s a lot of added pressure as people are rejoining everyone in their social circles for the first time in person,” Bromma said. “We really want [Pinterest] to be that welcoming, positive environment for everyone, regardless of their size or body type. So we felt like this would be the perfect time to make the change, and really prioritize mental and emotional health.”
478 million. That’s how many monthly active users Pinterest has, according to the company.
While people of all backgrounds, genders and walks of life can be affected, research shows women and girls are more at risk of developing eating disorders. More than 60% of its global users are women, a Pinterest rep said, and that the platform reaches 70% of women in the U.S. between the ages of 25 and 54.
Pinterest launched in 2010 as a bulletin board-inspired platform that allowed users to save images with links to other websites in folders called “boards,’ with popular categories including recipes, fashion, DIY projects, weddings and inspirational quotes. Pinterest has a history of being more selective about advertising permitted on the platform compared to other tech giants. The company banned political advertising in 2018, years before rivals made similar moves, which in Facebook’s case was only temporary. Last year, Pinterest stock surged after Facebook and Twitter advertisers faced a boycott after the companies were accused of doing too little to address hate speech.
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