In June Pinterest announced that it became the first social media platform to sign The Inspired Internet Pledge, a call to action for technology companies to make the internet a safer and healthier place. On a sunny day at Cannes Lions, we sat down with Pinterest’s CMO, Andréa Mallard, to discuss the nature of the platform, the negative impacts of social media and Pinterest’s recent commitment to creating a positive corner for the internet.
While majority of the platforms tend to keep their users online as much as possible, Pinterest seems to do the opposite. How does that affect that user-platform relationship?
We think that our decision to try to encourage people to get inspiration but then go do it in the real world is one of the most important differentiators for Pinterest, not just for the users but for the advertisers who invest with us. We actually don’t want to keep people glued to their screens. We don’t think that’s good for the world. We don’t think that serves our mission of inspiring people everywhere to create a life they love. We want to bring them the most relevant, the best ideas in the world, so that they feel the urgency to act. So they say, ‘Wow, I love that amazing idea for my home‘ or ‘for beauty‘, ‘for fashion‘, ‘for a trip I want to take and I’m so excited by it that I’m going to go do it now.‘
What’s nice about that is that if you make sure you’re keeping people online for a little bit of time, but helping them do it in the real world, not only is that good for their emotional wellbeing but it’s great for advertisers.
The truth is that an advertiser doesn’t want people spending time online either. They want them to buy their products and go and use them in the real world. I feel proud of that mission and our approach to it, because it’s a win-win for everybody. It ensures us that we’re doing the right things for the users, but we can tell advertisers that we don’t keep people addicted to the screen. We get them excited to buy or try your product in the real world. I think it’s a great solution for all.
How does curation work on Pinterest? Is it solely based on algorithms or can we talk about human intervention?
That’s a great question. It is a mix of both. So, typically what happens is for anyone who uses Pinterest, we will form a taste graph about you. So the more you use Pinterest and you save the things you like, we start to understand ‘this is what you love‘. This is the kind of furniture you like, these are the kind of clothing you like, this is the kind of home projects you want to do… your taste and my taste are not the same. We might like the same categories of things, but we would come at it very differently: I might have a very minimalist house and you might have a maximalist house, for instance. I might be a vegan, you might love grilling meats. That’s fine. We want to make sure that we can provide through algorithm an understanding of your taste graph and provide really personalized content.
That said, humans are not absent from the process, so we also have a very large content editorial team. They’re always trying to curate the best content from Pinterest, put it in a beautiful wrapper and presenting that to you too. We use a really great combination of AI or an algorithm, mixed with human curation, and we put it together for the results.
Another thing, remember, all the content on Pinterest was put there by humans.
It is half a billion or more people who are looking around the entire internet and saying, ‘this is the best of the best and I’m going to pull it off the internet and save it to Pinterest.’ So there’s already a fundamental human curation level, even before you’ve done a single thing on Pinterest, which is, I think why we have the quality level of content that we do.
The effects of filters on internet users, especially on teenagers, have been a hot topic for some time. Pinterest seemed to take proactive steps towards prevention of their harmful effects. Can you explain your approach?
Sure. There are a lot of platforms today that have these filters. They could call them beauty filters, for example, where it used to be that if you used one of these filters, maybe you could just see what lipstick colour looks like on you, or a mascara colour. Or if you’re a man, you might see a new haircut, what it might look like on you. Well, over time, that really started to change. And now those beauty filters aren’t just changing a single thing about you, they’re telling you that you need to change your entire face in order to be beautiful. They will make the eyes bigger, the chin narrower, the neck longer, the skin perfect.
We have concerns about that, especially for young people, both men and women. If you’re constantly looking at a filter that’s telling you implicitly that you’re not good enough the way you are. This is what you’re supposed to look like, and by the way, everyone looks the same after they’ve been through a beauty filter. It really just has one standard of beauty, which I think is important. So, at Pinterest, we have a very clear stance on that, which is we’re happy to use AR. We’re happy to use some of these tools but we will not use filters that fundamentally change the way you look, because after enough time filters that change the way you look start to change the way you feel about yourself, and we don’t want to do that to the wellbeing of our users.
At Cannes Lions, Pinterest’s CEO Bill Ready and you were on stage. You announced that Pinterest is the first company to sign The Inspired Internet Pledge. Can you tell us about the pledge?
Yes,we were very proud and very honoured to be the first signatories of The Inspired Internet Pledge. What it says effectively is that we are going to make the emotional wellbeing outcomes of our users a high priority in everything we do to develop our product. Not only does it say that we are going to measure the emotional wellbeing outcomes every year, we’re going to do that with a third party.
We’re not allowed to grade our own homework. We’re going to use a third party expert to say, ‘This is what’s happening to people who spend time on Pinterest. This is the effect that’s happening‘ and then we are committing to reacting to what we learn there. Really listening and acting on not only the data that comes back, but the stories from the users who may experience some harm. So it’s a very aggressive and bold pledge. We’re proud to be the first ones to sign it but we don’t want to be the only ones.
This doesn’t work if we’re the only positive corner of the internet. We want to invite everyone into our corner and we do not want to compete on emotional wellbeing. We want that to be the cost of entry for every major tech platform. We are truly inviting them to join us and learn as we all go along this journey together to ensure we’re doing the right thing for, frankly, humanity together.
Thank you for your time.
Featured image: Pinterest pictures