A Lesson in Compromise from the Pinterest Team

Recently, Pinterest was asked by officials from Mitt Romney’s campaign to change the name on the account of a user who had created a satirical board poking fun at Romney’s, how shall we say, epicurean tastes. 

While it’s clear the Pinterest team appreciated the commentary and creativity that Eric’s board brought to their site, when it comes to setting a precedent for the rest of Pinterest’s community, things like fake accounts and impersonation swing both ways. It’s not long before you have more fake accounts pinning items and proliferating ideologies that may not be so easy to stomach. 

Here’s the message their Community Manager sent to Eric:

From: Enid Hwang
Date: Fri, Feb 10, 2012 at 9:51 AM PST
Subject: Pinterest: “MittRomneyGOP” username
To: Eric Spiegelman

Hi Eric,

I’m Enid, the Community Manager at Pinterest. As you might have guessed, I’m writing regarding your username “MittRomneyGOP.” We were recently contacted by officials from Mitt Romney’s campaign because they feel it’s very misleading and they’re requesting that it be changed to “fakemittromney.”

We actually really appreciate political commentary on Pinterest - and I know your account is clearly satirical - but we’re a young company so we don’t have a feature/process in place for “verified accounts” (such as Twitter) which would make the purpose of your account immediately obvious to any user on the site.

If you don’t mind changing your username, let me know. Or, you can just go ahead and make the switch yourself at: https://pinterest.com/settings. We’ve been brainstorming alternatives and unfortunately we feel changing your profile picture or adding a byline on your “bio” section on Pinterest may not be sufficient because that information isn’t included with all pins that propagate through the site.

We’re also really open to discussing the issue more with you, so you can reach me directly at [REDACTED] if you have any questions.

I’m sorry for the trouble and again, don’t hesitate to call if you’re concerned about this!


What’s especially interesting is that Pinterest prohibits impersonation within their Terms of Use. They could have simply suspended Eric’s account, but they opted to work with him to arrive at an understanding as to why the change was necessary. 

Eric’s response to Pinterest initially implored them to consider his First Amendment Rights, and not yield to the pressure of Mitt Romney’s team.

From: Eric Spiegelman
Date: Fri, Feb 10, 2012 at 10:14 AM PST
Subject: Re: Pinterest: “MittRomneyGOP” username
To: Enid Hwang

Hi Enid,

Obviously I understand your concern. And I can imagine as a new company (one that’s really doing a great job), you’d prefer not to have hassles like this. But at the same time, you’re a publishing entity that’s more or less open to the public, and I can’t in good conscience change my parody at the request of the subject of that parody. It should be obvious to the Romney campaign that nobody sees this as official, and that I am exercising my Free Speech rights in making fun of Gov. Romney’s utter tone-deafness when it comes to matters of privilege and class inequality.

That being said, I understand that you are well within your rights to delete my account. But I really hope you choose not to.

You have a wonderful service in Pinterest, and I wish your team all the best, however you proceed with this.


In response to this, Pinterest offered a compromise:

From: Enid Hwang
Date: Fri, Feb 10, 2012 at 10:24 AM PST
Subject: Re: Pinterest: “MittRomneyGOP” username
To: Eric Spiegelman

Hi Eric,

Thanks for getting back to me so quickly: We have no intention of deleting your account. It’s satire and it should stay! We’ll change the username (this doesn’t affect your boards, pins, or anything else about your profile settings) and we feel that’s sufficient. Once we institute verified accounts this, and any future issues, will be taken care of universally. That’s our responsibility so sorry again for having you caught in the middle of it.

I really appreciate your note (and compliments!) and thanks so much for your understanding,


While Eric initially was not satisfied with this either, he eventually apologized to the Pinterest team, recognizing that their decision had nothing to do with politics:

Pinterest is a site suddenly hitting the mainstream in a big way and I’m sure they have plenty to deal with, without some asshole like me using their platform in a way that isn’t exactly what they had in mind for it. I have a lot of admiration for what their team has achieved and I am sorry if I have at all distracted them from their pursuit.

These kinds of delicate situations arise every day when you have a passionate user community. Some battles you can win, others you can’t. In this case, Pinterest’s team opted for a compromise — something they were under no obligation to do — but which clearly made all the difference in the final outcome. 

Compromise will not always work, and the bigger a site gets, the harder it will be to handle every case with such personal care. But one of the most important things a Community Team does is remind users that behind all those necessary rules and regulations are real people who, more than anything, care deeply about their users.  

I often joke that when making tough calls as a Community Manager, I ask myself what Captain Picard would do (cotroxell can attest to this). I think this is exactly what Picard would have done. 

  1. cmanage reblogged this from ensignau and added:
    Un reblog proposé par http://www.tamento.com votre agence de community management
  2. st-louis-dentist reblogged this from ensignau
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  9. caterpillarcowboy reblogged this from ensignau and added:
    Very well done. Assuming your users are intelligent works more often than not.
  10. darwinmclovin reblogged this from sirlowkey
  11. sirlowkey reblogged this from ensignau
  12. section9 reblogged this from ensignau and added:
    Wow, props to pinterest for having someone on their community team who actually knows how to handle a situation like...
  13. ensignau posted this