Why Pinterest is damaging the Internet

by Veronica on February 6, 2012

in Soapbox

Pinterest seems to be the new OMG HAVE YOU SEEN IT thing lately, which, okay, fine.

It took me a while to get into it and then only a few moments to forget about it again. This probably says more about how my brain works than any particular thing wrong with the premise of Pinterest. I’m not a designer home kind of girl and pretty things usually just make me grumpy that my house is falling down and my finances are limited at best.

Every few weeks though, I would click through to Pinterest to see what was happening in the gardening and food sections. Gardens and food are something I can do and there were some nice ideas.

Ignoring the fact that I seemed to see the same pictures pinned over and over and over and fucking over again, I was able to peruse photos of walkways and overgrown vegetation and delicious foody things.

Until, one day, I found something that looked interesting. So I clicked on it, to find it’s source, so that I could read more about it.

Source: Google.com

Huh. Just one image, snagged by a Pinterester, using Google image search. There was no accreditation for the original photographer, and nothing available to tell me what on earth it actually was, or how to cook it.

Slowly as I found myself clicking on more and more things, I was finding more and more images grabbed from Google, with nothing about the original author.

And okay, I get that kittens or fuzzy bunnies or whatever maybe don’t technically NEED a source, recipes.

Artwork, crafts and awesome ideas however, definitely DO.

It’s like a giant game of Chinese Whispers, once things have been pinned half a dozen times, no one knows what it was originally about.

I am a big believer in not watermarking images, instead choosing to resize to “Internet friendly, but you can’t print it out”. I think watermarks distract from a photo and make things look messy.

But Pinterest makes me want to start watermarking things. It also makes me want to put a giant padlock on my site and disallow third party search engines from collecting images that Pinteresters could then pin, with no thoughts of accreditation.

Also, I think Pinterest enables people to use images in blog posts and then only give source credit to Pinterest. I’m sorry, but “found on Pinterest” is not source credit.


I’m calling you out Pinterest. I think you’re damaging for artists, for craftspeople, for food bloggers, for photographers and for people with interesting ideas that they kindly share with the Internet.

Fern February 6, 2012 at 11:27 am

I agree with you completely! I love the concept of Pinterest, but more and more I’m finding it so frustrating, originally I put this down to it generally being popular with people who aren’t entirely netsavvy, but then I can’t help but think that Pinterest could help the situation by putting in simple blocking measures for certain sites, like google, where it’s obvious that that isn’t the correct source.

I wrote about this too 🙂 http://craftblog.com.au/2011/11/04/the-problem-with-pinterest/

Boobing babe, sorry for any typos 🙂

Veronica February 6, 2012 at 11:38 am

I agree, a little bit of blocking for certain sites would go a long way. Glowless pointed out that We Heart It does the same thing too, collating images with the potential to lose sources.

BB February 6, 2012 at 11:29 am

Watermark everything – I do.

Veronica February 6, 2012 at 11:40 am

But watermarking takes time! < << whine >>> Heh.

BB February 6, 2012 at 11:57 am

I understand that if you laboriously do each photo it’s a terrible timewaster.

Do you use Photoshop or Photo Elements at all? You can create an ‘action’ very easily (which records a series of activities like that required to make the watermark) so all you have to do is hit that Action button (or you can assign one of the F buttons at the top of your keyboard) once and it does it for you.

Here is a You-Tube link to create an action: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nlCuGnc_ONo

Here is my link to create a watermark in PS: http://bushbabeofoz.com/2010/05/20/how-i-make-a-watermark/

(You get to the bit where the guy says “Once you hit record” in the You-Tube clip, you simply start the process I describe in my blog post. And when finished you hit ‘STOP’ to complete the Action creation.)

Sounds complicated. It’s not. And once its set up, its a one-button process for every photo. Hope that helps a little.

Melinda February 6, 2012 at 11:30 am

I pin heaps of pictures that then link back to someone’s blog! I think it a great way to find new blogs too.

In saying that, I have used images on my blog and credited the image as “found here on interest” and this post has made me rethink that! Next time I will credit back to the actual blog.

Veronica February 6, 2012 at 11:41 am

I prefer Stumbleupon for discovering new things, but that is me. I’m glad you’ll be crediting the blogs now, if I can just convince people to do that, then success!

Tracy Sorensen February 6, 2012 at 11:33 am

It took me a while to come round to Pinterest but now I like it – I’m starting to use it for myself, to keep track of stuff I come across as I surf. It’s a more visual and friendly way of gathering things I like and being able to see them in an array – just like a pin-up board at home. But that’s a very good point about the lack of source acknowledgement. I’m going to start adding text to my comments about the source/original creators. I find that mostly if you click on a pic, you go to the website that pic came from – and I’ve ended up in all sorts of wonderful places by that means. But if you just get to a Google images vat – that’s bad. Maybe Pinterest could work on a bit of code that would discourage or disable this particular form of sharing.

Veronica February 6, 2012 at 11:43 am

Usually the original source is there, but sometimes it isn’t and I’ve found things missing the original source often enough now to have gotten annoyed. I think there is room for improvement with Pinterest and with the etiquette used within it.

Dorothy @ Singular Insanity February 6, 2012 at 11:36 am

I find Pinterest bit boring, really. Maybe I should upload some of my photos?

I watermark everything, when I remember.

I hadn’t noticed the Google source thing. I’ve only ever seemed to have pinned things that take me back to original source.

And I mostly use my own images on the blog, too.

Veronica February 6, 2012 at 11:45 am

I did too, until I discovered that I could look at just gardening, or just food. But then, I won’t use it for weeks at a time and the times I’ve found food without source credits have just annoyed me.

Toni February 6, 2012 at 1:00 pm

I have to disagree. Pinterest isn’t the problem — it’s ignorant PINNERS who haven’t bothered with looking up the etiquette and don’t probably care anyway.
And that happens all over the net, it’s just that Pinterest is a focal point.

(you can find the etiquette on the home page, under ABOUT.)

I do try and always follow a picture back to the source, and credit the owner, unless it’s jokes or funny pictures that are all over the net anyway. But for recipes, craft, decor etc — I KNOW how much work goes into designing, creating, and blogging!

Kathy February 6, 2012 at 1:13 pm


Pinterest is one of many new shiny Internet toys that I made a conscious decision to not even try – I am limiting my online time further in 2012 and I already have enough commitment between blogging (and blog-reading), Twitter and one or two other things. I’d rather do two or three things “properly” and enjoy them, as opposed to ten or twelve things that make me feel frenetic and harried in my allocated online time. (In other words, I don’t want to stop enjoying reading here twice a week with a cuppa, just so’s I can go poke at some new app 🙂

While I lack any direct experience with it, the absence of proper attribution that you describe is troubling and I would have thought fraught with danger for Pinterest itself (copyright isn’t dead yet, no matter what people might believe…) I agree with you – not a great development for all those who share content and images online.

sewviolets February 6, 2012 at 3:47 pm

I am new to pinterest have just repinned but did pin a site to day that had a little pin it sticker on the blog – it all happened automatically I just assumed everything would be accredited correctly- if this is the case isn’t that a simple solution for bloggers to add that icon to their site

Kate Sins February 6, 2012 at 4:28 pm

Great point… I haven’t had any problems with finding the original source for any of the pins I’ve wanted to look at further (i.e. for a tutorial or more details) – yet – but I did wonder whether it would happen in the future. Clearly it does happen.

I’m going to go back now and make sure all Pinterest images I’ve used are credited correctly. If nothing else, you’ve inspired me to never use another Pinterest image or We Heart It image again. Or at least, without digging to find the original source. If I can’t find it I won’t use it. I knew I was being lazy but just needed a bit of a kick. Thanks!

Liz February 6, 2012 at 6:20 pm

This happened before pinterest, as you know. People used to just download photos to their desktops, then upload them as their own/or as an unknown source to forums/send them in emails, etc. Things like Pinterest & We Heart It have made it easier to keep things you like and be lazy about your sourcing, unfortunately. They encourage it, even, I think. Even if they don’t say it out loud, it’s what it’s used for.

The etiquette they have is all well and good, but this is the internet. 13 year olds aren’t taught in high school about creativity and copyright and how to be a good person on the internet. They’re left to their own devices. It is up to each individual website to put in place it’s own restrictions that protect peoples rights and all that jazz. (Yes, my argument just got 50% weaker with those last three words…)

Kellie @ Three Li'l Princesses February 6, 2012 at 9:26 pm

Have been wondering about this myself, V. I’d like to know how long they’re going to allow it to go on before something’s done about it.

Recycled ReliX - Cathy February 6, 2012 at 9:59 pm

I have to say I have NOT been on Pinterest, however, I have been wondering why Bloggers have been using photos from Pinterest instead of photos of their own???

For example I am an Antiques and Collectables Shop …. as is Vintage Rose & The Drill Hall Emporium ….. I follow their blogs and yet I am continuously wondering why they post Pinterest photos or photos of other sites that are not from their own shop??

I only talk about what I have in the shop …. I dont steal others photos to make my blog look interesting or tease my followers, I post what I have in the shop that I think is of interest. If that means I dont have as many followers so be it….. at least I have the products in my shop…… and I dont disappoint.

river February 6, 2012 at 10:10 pm

I haven’t yet been to Pinterest, can anyone just go there or do you have to join before wandering around in there?

I’ve downloaded images from places such as google, but don’t claim them as my own, mostly I use pictures that I really like as bookmarks, (I’ll print them out here at home), I do use a few on the blog, (check my Whimsical Wednesdays), but each week I state very clearly that the images are found via google, although that’s probably not the original source, but I found them so long ago I probably couldn’t locate the original source now.

alexandra February 7, 2012 at 6:43 am

Great post. It’s something I’m writing about a lot these days, too. What it comes down to, as your commenters have noted, is that Pinterest has issues, but the responsibility falls upon the pinners themselves (same applies to tumblr where people have the absolute ability to properly source and credit but don’t). There are no boundaries and most people lack them unless given them.

Signe February 7, 2012 at 8:42 am

My super creative sister-in-law was raving about pinterest and how fabulous it was, so I thought I’d better catch up with the times. I’ve had the exact same experience as you. I thought it was just me not getting it or doing something wrong so THANK YOU for raising this – it’s taken the “am I an idiot or what?” out of my pinterest experience.

Bek @ Just For Daisy February 9, 2012 at 1:04 pm

I completely agree! I’ve got a little out of the habit of watermarking my photos but will be starting again after being reminded of it’s importance here in your comments section.
I hate two things about pinterest:
One: You said it – a lack of original source!
Two: People pinning but not changing their description, so my friend who does NOT have an Aunt Gladys says “This would be a great gift for Aunt Gladys” It’s a little lazy.
What I do love is that it is FAR EASIER for me to find things this way instead of the endless ‘bookmarks’ folders I have in my internet browser! So brownie points for that! Great post! 🙂 Thanks!

Michelle DennisEvans (@MichelleDEvans) February 13, 2012 at 10:24 pm

I agree … I think… but I’m sure I’d agree completely if I understood Pinterest completely. 😉

Nick February 24, 2012 at 8:16 am

People have been taking credit for the work of others or building upon their ideas since the beginning of time. That will never change. Of course most of us are polite enough to credit the source of any works we share. Getting angry at those who use your content without permission doesn’t help anything. It’s good, in a sense, that people like your work enough to share it. Don’t fight it, because you cannot win. Find a way to use it to your advantage.

Trey Ratcliff has a great post on this:

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