The problem of spam is one that Pinterest has been dealing with since the beginning of the year, but their efforts to stop it have some users unable to pin.
Today Heidi Kay of PediaStaff emailed to let me know that she was seeing a CAPTCHA when she tried to pin on Pinterest.
More troubling, even when she entered the correct CAPTCHA characters, she was unable to pin.
This isn’t the first time Heidi has had an issue with Pinterest. Heidi also had her ability to comment on pins taken away this month and was unable to get Pinterest to resolve it despite sending emails to Pinterest and @ messaging Pinterest engineers on Twitter. Heidi told me she often would post ten comments in the morning on her own boards as she actually uses Pinterest as way to communicate.
What we were trying to do is to develop discussion groups around certain pins where therapists could look at an idea and suggest ways it could be modified for use in special needs classrooms. I thought it was a pretty innovative way to use the platform, but as I explained in my blog post I guess Pinterest didn’t like all the commenting I had to do to make it happen. I think maybe it was because I was cutting and pasting the same comment to attract activity to my pins, but who knows. Might just have been volume and the quick succession of timing. Never got a clear answer from the engineers on this in February as to what was triggering the freeze, but when it seemed to stop for a while I thought we were home free and then when it started again in April it was ruthless.
In this latest episode starting April 3rd I couldn’t make more than 2 or three comments, and then it was 1 and now none. I didn’t try to comment for about 5 days and still could not comment as of yesterday.
Why pins are being blocked
The best explanation for why Heidi is experiencing these issues is that she is a Pinterest power user, and her behavior might trigger anti-spam measures. Her Pinterest account for PediaStaff is one of the most active on Pinterest. While Pinterest itself doesn’t provide rankings, third party service Pinreach has the Pedia Staff account in the top 20 users as evaluated by reach.
In this case it could be an issue of pinning the same image to multiple boards. I asked her how many pins she did today before she got the CAPTCHA and she told me:
Today I pinned about 25 or 30 pins first thing this morning no problem. Then around 2 PM I created a pin, duplicating it 5 times for the various boards I wanted it in (this is something I do all the time for the long term viability of my boards. Sometimes pins overlap into several categories. (I even have a pin that explains why we do multiple pins )
It is possible that Heidi might have to change the way she uses Pinterest or continue to deal with these issues. While no legitimate user should have their ability to pin taken away, it should be noted that the PediaStaff account is not the only one dealing with this failed CAPTCHA issue. I posted about this issue on the Facebook group page for #Pinchat, and while most users hadn’t experience the issue, one person did have the exact same experience. She tried to pin an image, got a CAPTCHA, entered the text correctly, and still wasn’t able to pin. She indicated that she doesn’t pin frequently so this issue could start to affect more people. Later she reported that she was able to pin, so this may be a temporary issue that Pinterest has now resolved.
The point of a CAPTCHA is to stop bots run by spammers from pinning. Two posters on Black Hat World (a forum frequented by grey/black hat marketers, i.e. spammers) reported that the they were also unable to pin when they enter the CAPTCHA. It is unclear if they were using bots, and in the case of the poster who started the thread, he seemed to indicate it was no longer an issue.
Lauren Orsini brought attention to the spam issue with her piece on the spammer who claimed to be making over $1000 a day spamming Pinterest. As I told Lauren when she interviewed me, I actually alterted Ben Silbermann, the CEO of Pinterest, about Black Hat World as a place to check out what spammers where up to. At that time there wasn’t much talk of Pinterest, but now there are dozens of individual threads posted each week about spamming Pinterest.
Pinterest is addressing the spam issue (they actually published a blog post on the issue this past Friday), and while it does make sense that some legitimate accounts may have issues as Pinterest’s tries to stop spam, preventing a legitimate user from commenting and pinning is troubling.
Importance of Pinterest
Heidi told me that Pinterest is so important to PediaStaff’s business that they actually paid for audio/video hookups for the American Occupational Therapy Association Conference so they could incorporate their Pinterest boards into their booth. The conference is in two weeks, and she is concerned that all their work could be for naught if they can’t get normal access to Pinterest again.
Heidi has an email out to Pinterest on this issue. I have called Pinterest to get a comment, but I haven’t heard back yet.