Why It's No Longer Safe to Click On Pinterest Images

kullin
Hans Kullin Digital PR Strategist, Coop

Posted on April 18th 2012

Why It's No Longer Safe to Click On Pinterest Images

Do you trust the BBC in the UK? I bet you do. It's one of the most trusted brands in media. So if someone has pinned an image from the BBC site, you would feel that it was safe to click on that image to go to the page where it was originally published. Well, not anymore. Spammers have made clicking on Pinterest images into a lottery, you never know where you will end up.

Spam is now everywhere on Pinterest. Just search for images from a random European large city and they show up in droves. Stockholm, check. Copenhagen, check. London, check. Some of these images seem legit, but most of them are there just to trick you into visiting a shop on Amazon, a site that sells weight loss pills or offers fake gift cards. 

Pinterest: Search results for london

Here's how it works. 

Spammers pin an image to Pinterest, then edit the link and add a link to the site they want users to visit. They use a URL shortener such as bit.ly or goo.gl to hide the real address. Now there is no way to know before you click where the link will take you.

The BBC redirect scam

Now back to the issue with BBC. Some spammers have found that the BBC has a redirect link to external sites that can be misused. The BBC scam works like this. Instead of using a URL shortener, they type the address of the landing page after this BBC redirect URL, example:

[http://www.bbc.co.uk/go/redirect.shtml?http://auoff.info/pinterest]

This way, Pinterest displays “bbc.co.uk” as the source of the image. Credible, right?

You can type any URL after that BBC link, for example http://www.bbc.co.uk/go/redirect.shtml?http://www.cnn.com This link will send you to a BBC page which automatically redirects you to the site at the end of the URL.

BBC scam uses redirect page

Here is a live (at least for now) example of the BBC scam, on an image I found by searching for Copenhagen on Pinterest:

http://pinterest.com/pin/237283474087224957/

Pinterest Copenhagen - on Media Culpa

Here is another example: http://pinterest.com/pin/167055467397980305/

Part of the reason we talk so much about the possibilities with Pinterest is that the site alledgedly drives a lot of traffic to retailers and other sites. If we no longer dare to click on the images that others have pinned it hurts the very core of the site. A social network that doesn't drive any traffic to other sites is far less attractive than one that does.

Clearly Pinterest needs to shape up its fight against spam before the situation gets out of hand. And BBC need to fix that redirect link so that more spammers don't use it.

kullin

Hans Kullin

Digital PR Strategist, Coop

Hans Kullin is a Digital PR Strategist based in Stockholm, Sweden. He runs the blog Media Culpa, the first Swedish PR blog, about Public Relations and social media. 

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Comments

This is not the BBC's fault, this is an image hijacking exploit coming from the domain auoff.info

The BBC can't do anything about it.  It doesn't come from them and they can't access the hijacking domain because it's not theirs.  They can't fix it.

" If we no longer dare to click on the images that others have pinned it hurts the very core of the site. "

I receive less than 0.001% of my traffic from Pinterest, and there are now more pins and repins of my pictures on Pinterest than there are images on my website.  Others may have different experiences, but I did check my logs this morning.

The very core of "the site" is not to send traffic to other websites, it is to keep visitors on Pinterest, mesmerized by assemblies of copyrighted content scraped from other websites by its feverish users.

 

 

i have been seeing A LOT of spammy pins lately on Pinterest.

you can check bit.ly links by copying/pasting the link into the address bar and adding a "+" (plus symbol) after the URL.  this will take you to the bit.ly analytics page for that URL and there is a Long Link shown on that page which will indicate where the link will take you.  

better to be safe and check if you see a bit.ly link from someone you don't trust, or seems phishy!