Pinterest changes its search algorithm in the name of body diversity

From now on, users searching for women’s fashion will see a range of body types and skin tones represented – a major move against algorithmic bias online.

Date
8 September 2023

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Pinterest is overhauling its algorithm to become “a more positive place online”, it says. The platform will now show body types of all kinds to anyone searching for women’s fashion on the site. By using machine learning, Pinterest hopes to tackle the biases that are built into social media platforms and search engines, such as Instagram, whose algorithms have been reported to favour images of white and thin models.

Up until now, those looking to see a particular body type in their search results on Pinterest have to add modifiers. Specific queries like this are increasing according to Pinterest. The search “plus size bridal dresses” is up by 500 per cent from 2022 to 2023 – an indication of demand, but also the lack of inclusivity and intuitiveness currently present in search engines like this. The new body type technology has been developed using over five billion images on the platform; AI was used to identify shape, size and form in each image.

This is the latest in a series of moves by Pinterest to leverage tech to help users see themselves better represented. In 2019, the platform released tools enabling users to refine results by skin tone, followed by hair pattern filters in 2019.

Pinterest says it’s based these developments on user behaviour and the discourse surrounding body representation at large. It’s supported by organisations and leading activists, including National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance (NAAFA).

Tigress Osborn, chair of NAAFA, says: “At NAAFA, we’ve worked for over 50 years to protect the rights of fat people and to improve quality of life for people with bigger bodies. Through this work, we know that social media spaces can be especially hard for larger people. Trolls are relentless – especially to fat women who dare to wear anything other than baggy black clothing – but Pinterest has always been safer and more welcoming than many other online spaces. Working with Pinterest to ensure that larger bodies are shown in search results signals to users of all sizes that everybody and every body deserves to be included and inspired.”

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Copyright © Pinterest, 2023

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Copyright © Pinterest, 2023

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Copyright © Pinterest, 2023

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About the Author

Liz Gorny

Liz (she/they) joined It’s Nice That as news writer in December 2021. After graduating from the University of Bristol, they worked freelance, writing for independent publications such as Little White Lies, Indie magazine and design studio Evermade.

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