I discovered this quite a while back, but it just popped into my mind again recently. Pinterest won’t let you search for the word “depression”. If you try, it gives no results, just this message: “If you’re in emotional distress or thinking about suicide, help is available.” If you search for “depressed” or “major depression”, though, that’s totally okay.
Okay, so time to try a few more search terms. Searching for “suicide” gives you the safety message, but you still get your search results. If you type in “suicidal”, it’s the same situation as with depression; you get the safety message and no search results.
How does Pinterest treat other, more charged words?
Curious to see what Pinterest would do with far more problematic and disturbing terms, I did some more searching. Psychotic, PTSD, trauma, homicide, homicidal, violence, abuse, killing, murder, stalking, and rape are all okay, with no safety messages. “Nigger” gets no results and a message about hate speech. “Whore” gives no results, with a message that “Some nudity is okay for Pinterest, some isn’t.” “Incest” and “slut” generate search results, but the same caution about nudity.
“Help is available”?
It seems just plain bizarre that the word depression is an issue but homicidal isn’t. Well, time to explore this a little more. So I clicked on Pinterest’s “help is available” link. It takes you to a questionnaire. The first question asks whether you’re having thoughts of suicide right now. It then provides a crisis line number and says to call them if it’s an emergency. Following this, multiple choice answers are given: no and maybe.
If you click no, it takes you to the next question, which is a multiple choice asking what you’re struggling with. It suggests that you could try a crisis line, the Live Better app, or the Calm meditation app.
If you click maybe, it then provides crisis line resources and asks if you’re likely to use them, and why you might be reluctant to.
To me this whole thing just seems downright strange. Who are they helping by showing search results for depressed/suicide but not depression/suicidal? Suicidal I can at least kind of get it, but to treat depression as a scary word is complete nonsense. What is wrong with this world when homicidal is just fine but depression is unacceptable?
I get the sense that someone in the Pinterest powers that be has decided this is a way for them to cover their ass. Perhaps a little less ignorance would serve them much better.