Pinterest, the fastest growing social networking website, works like an online scrapbook. Generally speaking, content includes things like scenic pictures, recipes, artwork, and a multitude of other things users enjoy sharing. The genius of the site is that it is naturally suited for all types of marketing and e-commerce. Posts can link to other websites where products are purchased and sold online.
But the same ease of use in marketing that is partially behind the sites increasing popularity is also becoming its biggest challenge. Fake accounts, formatted to out-show posts from actual users, are drowning out some content in an effort to drive users towards links leading to advertised products. Pinterest judges a post’s popularity based on how many users “re-pin” an item. The more “re-pins,” the more prominently the post will appear on the site. Spammers are designing these bots are to exploit Pinterest’s popularity rating, thus allowing their spam to show up on more and more user feeds. Usually spammers will post things that entice users to click the attached link. Common methods include promising some service or discount on a product in exchange for filling out a quick survey, using pictures that are likely to draw a high volume of re-pins (like a picture of a scantily clad woman with a link behind it), or guaranteeing free gifts. Not all of these links are necessarily malicious, but they all are misleading.
Why is this such a big deal? Mainly because a lot of what makes social networking sites fun to use is the so-called “trust factor.” That trust built by the website that makes users confident that the material being posted on their wall is from other users; from people, and not bots or spam programs. While Pinterest is certainly not the only social networking site that entices spammers, more popular sites like Facebook and Twitter are better equipped to deal with spamming because of their platform differences. Facebook and Twitter operate in closed network circles, meaning you must “friend” or “follow” someone to see their feed and status updates. Also, often times a user on Facebook or Twitter will have to either follow a specific link or install some type of app. In contrast, users of Pinterest only need to click on a picture they like to “re-pin,” making the spreading of spam unchecked and unnoticed much more likely.
Pinterest is aware of the issue and is making the control of spam on the site a priority. However users would be wise to exercise caution when visiting unknown links from the site and be extremely mindful when providing any personal information on the site. The more personal information you share, the more directly targeted attacks can be used to lure unsuspecting consumers. You never know who might be looking at the things you post. Keep your anti-virus and anti-malware software up to date and active at all times, and if you notice a clear case of mal-ware or spam, report it to site administrators.