Yesterday morning, the anti-abortion group Live Action launched a Tweetstorm alleging that Pinterest was discriminating against it for its beliefs. The group, which rose to infamy with heavily edited Planned Parenthood undercover “sting” videos, said that it had been put on Pinterest’s domain “block list” and had its account permanently suspended for spreading “misinformation.” Lila Rose, Live Action’s founder, suggested that the group had been wrongly censored out of partisan bias.“Pinterest Logic: You can freely pin if you’re Planned Parenthood, an abortion provider,” she tweeted. “But if you’re a pro-life group & pin about the beauty & humanity of a baby in the womb, you’re banned bc you’re a threat to ‘Pinner’s health or safety.’”
The truth, though, is that, as Pinterest announced back in February, the platform is in the midst of a broad crackdown on harmful medical misinformation, a category that Live Action’s radical content certainly falls into; and anti-abortion images are still abundant on the site.
Nonetheless, Live Action’s followers have been activated by these conspiracy theories, much like they are by the medical misinformation that got the group blacklisted from Pinterest in the first place. Live Action has slapped together a petition that begins, “Pinterest says that their mission is to ‘help empower people to discover things that they love,’ but despite the fact that millions of people love babies and the pro-life cause, they are censoring Live Action’s life-affirming messages.” The group is calling on Pinterest to “
#StopTheBans of pro-lifers” and promoting an image in the style of the company’s logo that reads, “Partisanterest,” a slogan which should probably be workshopped a bit more.
The outrage campaign began with a link promoting an article by Project Veritas, a site founded by James O’Keefe, the rightwing activist famed for releasing undercover video “stings” targeting liberal groups. The piece claims to have insider information showing that Pinterest put Live Action on a “domain block list,” which identifies URLs that cannot be linked on the site. The blacklist, as published by Project Veritas, includes porn sites, as well as several sites appearing to peddle medical misinformation, including an anti-vax resource. (Tellingly, though, it’s only the porn sites that Live Action is highlighting, perhaps assuming that its followers will be more outraged to be associated with the adult industry than with anti-vaxxers.) The article goes so far as to name a Pinterest employee who is alleged to have added the site to its blocklist.
A Pinterest spokesperson told Jezebel, “We took action on LiveAction.org several months ago for violating our misinformation policy related to conspiracies and health, and not for any other reason.”
Soon Live Action turned to allegations that, in addition to the URL being broadly banned from the site, the group’s Pinterest account had been disabled. They posted to Twitter a screenshot, purportedly of a message received from Pinterest’s support team, which read, “Your account was permanently suspended because its contents went against our policies on misinformation. We don’t allow harmful misinformation on Pinterest.” The message continued, “That includes medical misinformation and conspiracies that turn individuals and facilities into targets for harassment or violence.” Rose, who once told Jezebel she would die for the anti-abortion cause, and the Live Action Twitter account used this message as a prompt to began pontificating about Pinterest’s partisan bias.
Never mind that in February Pinterest announced an internal campaign to combat medical misinformation. As BuzzFeed reported in 2017, many false health-related claims proliferate on Pinterest, including that alkaline water can kill cancer. The site explained that it had begun blocking problematic search terms—including, notably, anything relating to vaccines, as anti-vax misinformation in particular had taken hold on the site. At the time, Ifeoma Ozoma, a public policy and social impact manager at Pinterest, told The Guardian, “If there’s a website that is dedicated in whole to spreading health misinformation, we don’t want that on our platform, so we can block on the URL level.”
That can easily be said of Live Action, which opposes birth control as “not only morally wrong, but also medically harmful for our bodies.” Yet Rose, and many followers, seem convinced that a broader conspiracy is afoot against anti-choicers. Either Rose is willfully misrepresenting reality, or she hasn’t spent much time browsing Pinterest, because a quick search of the site revealed enough anti-abortion content that I never managed to reach an end to my page scrolling, though I tried. In a couple key strokes, I was able to find images with slogans like, “FEWER WOMEN WOULD HAVE ABORTIONS IF WOMBS HAD WINDOWS.” There were even a few photos purporting to show aborted fetuses.
If Pinterest is trying to censor anti-abortion content, it’s doing a real shit job. Still, Live Action is doubling down on its claims of discrimination against anti-abortion activists. Now the group is encouraging followers to post to Pinterest an image that links access to reproductive rights with slavery and the Holocaust. I was able to find several instances of it, and other Live Action images, on the site. Which is to say: Live Action undermines its own argument of oppression with its activism.