Pinterest Ban

Pinterest Bans GoogleEmployees.com Citing Anti-Criticism Rule

Pinterest has proven that GoogleEmployees.com is already making an impact by banning us after pinning just a handful of images featuring Google employees from our site. We received an email from them yesterday saying that our account had been suspended for violating their policy on harassment and criticism. This development is just one example of how far Google’s influence reaches beyond their company.

Events Leading Up to Ban

We know that Pinterest pins rank far higher in images search results on Google than they deserve. This is partly due to Pinterest’s popularity, but that still doesn’t explain why Pinterest pins often outrank original images published elsewhere even when the pin contains a direct link to the original image. In our case this was an early indicator that someone at Google was screwing with sites in our network. We had a lot of high ranking Google image results that disappeared quickly. When we looked at some test images we found that in many cases Pinterest pins linking directly to them were still ranking high on Google, but the originals were way back in the index. It made no sense because Pinterest pins are typically extremely thin on content. They contain an image, a title, and maybe a short description. The original images were always hosted on pages we far more content. Google’s algorithm usually loves large blocks of text, but for whatever reason it has been favoring thin content from Pinterest lately.

Eventually Google owned up to manually demoting sites in our network for issues irrelevant to content quality. Reasons like letting users block pages from search engines for a fee or in some cases remove them entirely. That admission came as a shock because it required Google to admit that their CEO gave false testimony to Congress in which he denied that it was possible for Google employees to do that. We fought back by organizing publicly available information and making it universally accessible and useful.

We then shared that information on social media by posting links to our manifesto, most wanted list, and profiles of Google CEO Sundar Pichai, Board Chairman John Hennessy, SVP of Search Prabhakar Raghavan, and Chief Legal Officer Kent Walker.

Pinterest Ban

Today we tried to pin our latest post on Jen Fitzpatrick when we were told that our account was suspended and we should check our email to learn why. We checked our email and found the following message:

We have suspended your Pinterest account after finding multiple violations of our Community Guidelines on harassment and criticism. You will no longer be able to access your Pins or messages.

We don’t allow content that insults, hurts, or antagonizes individuals or groups of people.

– The Pinterest Team

Thanks Pinterest, it is nice to know that our insults are in fact hurting and antagonizing Google employees. Unfortunately for you, we will not tolerate censorship from Pinterest either. We have evaluated their policy and concluded that only two of their examples might cover our conduct:

Pinterest isn’t a place to insult, hurt or antagonize individuals or groups of people. There are good reasons to express criticism, but we may limit the distribution of or remove insulting content to keep Pinterest a positive, inspiring place; this includes: Manipulated images intended to degrade or shame; Shaming people for their bodies or assumed sexual or romantic history; Criticisms involving name-calling, profanity and other insulting language or imagery; Mocking someone for experiencing sadness, grief, loss or outrage.

Pinterest Policy on Harassment and Criticism

We believe that our work might fall into the categories of “manipulated images intended to degrade or shame” and “criticism involving name-calling, profanity and other insulting language or imagery.” The first example might cover us creating a deck of cards with their faces on them for the purpose of shaming them for their conduct. The second example might cover us calling them criminals for lying to Congress. Either way we think their policy is intentionally vague for the purpose of allowing them to remove almost anything.

We wondered if Pinterest’s increased moderation might be related to their soaring Google rankings. Google has often taken the position in recent years that the best way to keep your site from being labeled low quality is to moderate user submissions. That might explain why Google has not penalized Pinterest for hosting mostly duplicate content in violation of their webmaster guidelines. Google’s guidelines for their human quality raters direct them to consider things like “trustworthiness” when determining quality, so we think the overall EAT score of Pinterest likely benefits from them being known for removing stuff for stupid reasons. Google has a warped definition of “trust” that prioritizes the removal of potentially offensive content over true trustworthiness. Moderation really is the antithesis of trust because the more a website moderates the more it can’t be trusted as a means of publication. If all a website can be trusted to provide are sanitized versions of their former selves then they can never be trusted to provide the most relevant information on any topic. This results in users trusting the site less because they become afraid to share information knowing that it would likely be removed just for pissing people off.

We are a good example of users that have lost trust in mainstream platforms. We used to syndicate all of our content on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr, and other platforms, but today our syndication is usually limited to just stuff we produce ourselves. That is our of fear of being completely de-platformed. Twitter and Facebook have been the worst offenders. They will remove posts, un-publish pages, and suspend accounts just for sharing content clearly created by others. Often such content is shared on our accounts by automated social syndication tools like Dlvr.it. Dlvr.it uses its own URL shortener so anyone can tell if a post was shared by a person or Dlvr.it. Despite that we would get messages from Facebook saying stuff like “you shared this” and they would continue to blame us for sharing it even after we pointed out that it was shared by Dlvr.it not us. They would then accuse us of posting “hate speech” or “harassment” even though they knew we didn’t post it and the authors were users. As a result we created RSS feeds that only include posts written by admins and use those to power our social syndication efforts. Throughout this process none of our accounts were suspended for admin content until now. Pinterest also has been less likely to censor us overall than Twitter and Facebook, so we are surprised that it was our Pinterest page to get censored first and not our Facebook page.

Special Treatment for Google

We believe that our other Pinterest accounts have already received far more complaints than this one ever did, so we think the suspension has more to do with who we pissed off than anything else. We suspect that Pinterest has some sort of communication channel with Google that allows Google to receive special treatment in situations like this. It would explain why Google likes them so much. When Pinterest gets a complaint from Google their first concern is probably losing traffic if they don’t work with them. As we’ve learned falling out of favor with Google for any reason leads to less traffic. A company favored by Google the way Pinterest is would take a baseball bat up their butt before doing anything to jeopardize their search rankings. We believe that someone at Google communicated their complaint to someone higher up at Pinterest than the usual moderators and that person suspended our account immediately.

Had Pinterest chosen to uphold the rights of their users instead of the will of Google several things might have happened: First, Google would demote or deindex our Pinterest account; Second, Pinterest traffic would drop suddenly due to Google lowering Pinterest’s EAT score on the grounds that their site’s reputation has worsened, being less trustworthy, or hosting malicious content likely to mislead users (the content is not misleading, but Google would surely dispute our claims and label it as misleading anyway); Third, Pinterest would start censoring more content hoping to get their EAT back or at least keep it from sinking lower.

Fighting Back

We are fighting back by organizing publicly available information about high ranking Pinterest employees and making it universally accessible and useful. Those employees are Ben Silbermann and Evan Sharp. Both are co-founders and high ranking members of the Pinterest high command.

Ben Silbermann

Ben Silbermann
Ben Silbermann: Pinterest CEO and ex-Google employee

Ben Silbermann is Pinterest’s Chief Executive Officer. Before launching Pinterest he worked at Google in the online advertising department. This connection proves to us that Google and Pinterest have an inappropriate relationship. We believe that Google reached out to their old employee and asked for a favor. It also might explain why Pinterest often ranks higher on Google than it deserves.

Where He Lives

According to public records, Benjamin W. Silbermann is a 38 year old resident of San Francisco, California. The most recent address we could find for him is 162 Randall Street. Judging by the neighborhood it appears quite modest for a wealthy man like Silbermann, but then again San Francisco is known for its notoriously high property values. We suspect that Silbermann maintains this property probably for business use while staying in San Francisco, but he probably has a giant mansion someplace else that was purchased through a trust. People often purchase properties using trusts to keep them from showing up in public records when people search for them. That usually works for awhile until they make the mistake of having bills sent there in their name.

As you can see his home has been blurred. High value targets often have Google blur images of their homes for privacy reasons, but without realizing that it just increases the probability of someone realizing they have the right place. In our experience a blurred image is an indicator to us that a high value target has lived there at some point, so if he doesn’t live there now he probably did.

We’ve also linked Silbermann to the email address [email protected]

Evan Sharp

Evan Sharp
Evan Sharp

The disheveled looking fellow photographed above in a gray sweatshirt that appears to have been purchased at a facility run by the Bureau of Prisons is not an inmate. He isn’t even an ex-con or a crazy hobo, he is a billionaire. He is Pinterest chief design and creative officer Evan Sharp. Unlike his colleague Ben Silbermann, Sharp never worked for Google, so we don’t think he personally played a role in censoring us, but we are including him anyway because he is an influential member of the Pinterest team.

Where He Lives

According to public records, Evan Howell Sharp is a 38 year old resident of San Francisco, California. The most recent address we have for him is 49 Park Hill Avenue, but we also tied him to a second address as recently as this year. The Park Hill property appears to have been purchased through a trust for $3,850,000 earlier this year.

The other address we have for him is 435 Buena Vista Avenue.

Our Demands

We are willing to remove this article if Pinterest restores out account. Society is at a critical juncture and we must take a stand to keep the internet as we know it from being destroyed. If companies like Google and Pinterest are permitted to abuse their dominant positions in the market to suppress speech, it is only a matter of time until nobody can say anything likely to offend others online anymore. We feel comfortable making these demands because we’ve already published the information, so we are not threatening to do anything if not given something of value. We simply offer to stop doing nothing if they do something which cannot be considered extortion as a matter of law.

Proof of Progress

Pinterest has proven that our campaign against Google has entered a new phase that we referred to in our manifesto as the kicking and screaming phase. This phase typically begins with the subject finding ways to suppress our speech without engaging us directly. Things like complaining to third parties capable of suppressing content elsewhere on the internet like search engines and social media platforms. We usually don’t find out about this activity until action is taken. That action can result in data points we use to determine the likelihood of actions such as content disappearing from search engine results, letters from government agencies saying they received a complaint, or in this case an account being suspended.

The next stage in the kicking and screaming phase typically involves the subject contacting us directly, but only after learning the hard way that complaining to others just makes things worse for them. The subject will likely contact us with a complaint such as emailing us a cease and desist letter. That tactic might work on Bubble People because Bubble People are likely to legitimize subsequent legal action with things like hiring a lawyer, showing up to court, or complying with a court order (see this article for more on Bubble People). We will do no such things. When people realize that their governments are powerless to help them they eventually seek a parley with us. Unfortunately, most people do not believe us when we say that courts are powerless to help them because they still think that we don’t have the balls to defy a judge. Those people have failed one of Suz Tzu’s most important lessons, “know thy enemy.” If they really knew us they would realize that people have tried to silence us with courts and failed even when they have obtained favorable rulings. The most notable example involved our leader being incarcerated and ordered not to operate any websites while in jail. Not only did that not result in service disruptions, but it also gave us more subjects to write about in this way.

We don’t think Google will have the balls to sue us however because we would then be entitled to discovery. Our defense would be that we have a claim of right not to suffer from false and deceptive trade practices which contradict sworn statements made by Google in which they denied engaging in such practices and went further by claiming that it is impossible for Google employees to engage in the practices. We believe that if Google sued us we would have subpoena powers capable of forcing them to turn over documents proving that their CEO committed perjury. We could then argue successfully that they don’t have the right to manually manipulate search results because doing so constitutes a false and deceptive trade practice. The practice became deceptive when they denied that doing so was possible. If it were not for false statements made under oath by Google CEO Sundar Pichai we would agree with Google that they have the right to do what they are doing.

The perjury factor also protects us from criminal accusations such as, “you’re threatening to post stuff if we don’t give you something of value.” Normally threatening to engage in a lawful activity if not given something of value (ex: publishing embarrassing information about Bill Cosby) can be considered extortion. Google would likely argue that even though we are not demanding money that changing search engine results to our benefit is a thing of value that we have no claim of right to. That would be the case had Google not sworn under oath that the changes we seek to undo were not possible in the first place. However, because the changes themselves constitute a false and deceptive trade practice we have a plausible nexus to a claim of right.

The FTC defines “deception” in a policy statement:

Thus, the Commission will find deception if there is a representation, omission or practice that is
likely to mislead the consumer acting reasonably in the circumstances, to the consumer’s
detriment.

FTC Policy Statement on Deception

When Sundar Pichai said, “it is not possible for an individual employee or groups of employees to manipulate our search results,” we were misled to believe that we could conduct business without having to worry about Google employees manually manipulating search engine rankings. Google later admitted to manipulating ranking by maintaining lists of websites and manually adding names to a list of search terms that sites on their list are not allowed to rank highly for. That admission confirmed our suspicions that Google employees were manually manipulating search to our detriment in direct contradiction of Pichai’s claim that it is not possible for them to do so. We have every right to demand that Google stop damaging our business by conducting themselves within the limits Pichai established himself with his testimony.

Conclusion

We will not tolerate being de-platformed.

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