Pinterest settles with the EEOC over online harassment, discrimination policies

This story was originally published by iReporter Eisa Drane and has been updated with more details.

(CNNMoney) — Social media website Pinterest has reached a settlement with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission over its social media and anti-harassment policy.

Under the terms of the agreement, the company will make internal social media privacy changes, hire a privacy officer and revise the social media policy. Pinterest will also make public the EEOC’s initial findings from its investigation into the company’s social media policy and anti-harassment and discrimination policies.

In a statement, CEO Ben Silbermann called the situation “a profound violation of the trust that has been placed in us.”

“To our users, we apologize for not taking a clear and reasonable step to better protect them from harassment and discrimination on social media,” he wrote.

An estimated 34 million people use Pinterest daily, with 52% of visitors on mobile devices. The company is valued at more than $20 billion, and still has nearly half a billion dollars in cash on hand.

The terms of the agreement, signed in November, have been made public for the first time on Wednesday.

The EEOC launched an investigation into Pinterest’s policies in 2015. The document is full of serious allegations.

“Pinterest’s non-compliance with existing anti-discrimination law was particularly troubling because of Pinterest’s unique position as a major internet entity in the U.S.,” the document reads.

The document alleges that Pinterest didn’t have “public” in its policy’s definition of what’s considered a “social media platform.” This means that Pinterest didn’t account for the private conversations and posts its users make on social media and didn’t protect them under the Discrimination Act.

On Pinterest, users manage pinboards that include collections of items, including items of clothing, and recipes. They often pin and save photos of pins.

The EEOC’s investigation also found that the company didn’t investigate or respond adequately to other alleged instances of discrimination. The agency saw a growing trend of rumors and comments about potential discrimination online in 2014 and 2015. At one point in 2014, Pinterest’s communications team received 140 reported cases of perceived discrimination, the EEOC alleges.

“In just two years, Pinterest has become a critical and influential player in the world of social media. Pinterest has also emerged as a platform for all types of discrimination and harassment,” the document says.

After the initial investigation, Pinterest began taking measures to bring its policies into compliance with existing laws, according to the settlement agreement.

Before the EEOC investigation, the company already updated its non-discrimination and harassment policy to include social media.

“Now, we are explicit about our policy: ‘Pinterest is a place where ideas come to life and ideas on Pinterest may be discussed publicly or anonymously. You are our visitors to Pinterest, but only you can create an account and publicly discuss the things you find on Pinterest. Your actions on Pinterest are not under our control,’” reads an example of the new policy.

The company has also confirmed to CNN that it reached an agreement with the EEOC.

“We never want people who make negative comments about products to be subjected to adverse treatment,” a spokesperson for Pinterest said. “We launched an online tip line to report problems that have happened and our employees devote all of their time working to a single goal — making Pinterest the best community.”

The settlement also suggests that Pinterest hire more than one compliance officer. The company doesn’t have the position right now.

“We understand that Pinterest has an obligation to comply with the law,” the spokesperson for Pinterest said. “Since the beginning of this process, we have provided feedback to the EEOC and worked closely with them to modernize our terms of service and privacy policy.”

The EEOC is not publicly commenting on the case.

The Pinterest settlement represents one of several cases brought in recent years alleging discrimination by companies on social media platforms.

In 2017, NBCUniversal settled a class action lawsuit with the EEOC, agreeing to make changes to its policies. HBO and YouTube have also reached settlements with the EEOC in recent years.

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