Pinterest begins testing a ‘body type ranges’ tool to make searches more inclusive

Pinterest is today expanding on its efforts to make its product more inclusive with respect to body type diversity with the test of a new consumer-facing tool that allows users to filter select searches by different body types. The feature, which will work with women’s fashion and wedding ideas at launch, builds on Pinterest’s new body type technology announced earlier this year.

The latter involves novel computer vision technology that uses shape, size and form to identify various body types across the more than 5 billion images on Pinterest’s platform, and is the AI powering this new front-end feature. Pinterest had earlier announced the tech would be used to make search more inclusive and to shape its algorithms, citing data about the harms of body size discrimination. According to the Campaign for Size Freedom, this type of discrimination impacted around 34 million Americans in 2019, Pinterest noted at the time.

In addition, Megan D’Alessio, former manager of inclusion and diversity at Pinterest, pointed out that body dissatisfaction is prevalent for young people, but the issue is far worse for women as “50% of adolescent girls are unhappy with their bodies compared to 31% of boys,” she said.

That issue has been at the heart of debates over the potential dangers of social media use that have emerged following the release of documents by former Meta employee turned whistleblower Frances Haugen, who shared internal data that indicated Instagram had worsened body image issues for some teen girls. The fact that Meta had been aware of this problem alongside other detrimental mental health concerns, but did not act, is also the focus of a new lawsuit filed by the U.S. attorneys general of dozens of U.S. states.

Working to get ahead of potential regulations around teen social media use and its impact on body image issues, Pinterest developed technology to improve the representation of different body types on its platform. With the addition of the new body type technology to its suite of “inclusive AI” efforts, which have also included skin tone ranges and hair pattern search filters, Pinterest says it has improved the representation of different body types on the platform by 5x on women’s fashion-related searches in the U.S.

The test of the body type ranges front-facing tool for search is beginning to roll out now to Pinterest users, allowing them to search for women’s fashion or wedding ideas, then refine searches by body types. The company believes the feature won’t just improve search results’ diversity, it will also increase engagement with the platform. As an example, when Pinterest rolled out its skin tone range filter in the U.S., Canada, Great Britain, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand, it saw a 70% year-over-year increase in users saving Pins from across the skin tone ranges in their feeds, it says.

“We are committed to building a more positive internet, and with these developments, our hope is to bring a more personalized and inclusive experience on Pinterest,” said Sabrina Ellis, Pinterest’s chief of product, about the new feature. “We are still at the early stages of testing, and look forward to sharing additional learnings and details soon,” she noted.

Update, 11/29/23, 1:09 PM ET: Megan D’Alessio departed Pinterest this month, we learned, so have added “former” to her title.

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