Dark side of Pinterest: Tampa Bay moms stunned site can showcase suicide, role play, child pornography

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – For moms like Stefany Rodriguez-Neely, Marianne Touger and Zakeia Smith, a sinister secret was lurking beneath the surface of their favorite spot online – a website so popular, that more than 100 million use it each day.

“I was clueless. I was like, really?!” Smith told 8 On Your Side. “’Cause I think, when I think Pinterest, or one of those other sites, I think it’s all about crafting and recipes.”

Touger had the same response.

“It never occurred to me, never occurred to me that it would be a problem with Pinterest,” she said.

“I would have never thought there was a whole other side to it,” Smith added.

What is going on within the winding walls of this wildly popular website? Our 8 On your Side investigation revealed dangerous and devious pathways where children were being diverted to material that no parent would want their child to see.

When 8 On Your Side sat down with parents from the Tampa Bay Moms group, 11,000 members strong, they were stunned to learn that the site has a dark side, where material that normally promotes everything from piñatas to pasta, instead showcases topics like murder, cutting, suicide, role playing, racism – even child pornography.

Twelve cases over the last several years involving child porn on Pinterest have been investigated in Utah.

How is this material getting onto the site loved by moms all over the world?

Federal law requires the website to police itself, and it has. With tens of millions of users worldwide, the company assures those registered that child abuse, child molestation and offensive material will not be tolerated

“I would have never guessed. Not Pinterest at all, ’cause I know just being the PTA mom, we never would have guessed,” Smith said.

For Touger, a mother of three girls, there’s a rule online – no personal information. Never giving your full name, your birth date, your address, or your location.

“It’s mind-boggling, it’s hard. We’re approaching things that we didn’t have growing up,” she said.

For Rodriguez-Neely, the mother of four has passwords to everything her kids see.

That doesn’t change the fact that she’s worried about the other people online all over the world.

“They’re on their phone, reaching anybody on the internet. They’re kids, and kids don’t always have the greatest sense of danger. In this day and age, with how easily accessible our children are, you have to look at everybody as a potential threat.”