Why do social media platforms keep removing posts about safe and legal abortion pills? – Mother Jones

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Not all 39 patients who asked Christie Pitney for abortion pills last week were pregnant. Some had IUDs or were on birth control and wanted to have the pills – an extremely safe, FDA approved regime which is now the more common way to terminate a pregnancy in the United States, at your fingertips, just in case. “They are very, very worried and scared of what the future holds,” says Pitney, an advanced practice midwife who virtually prescribes abortion pills to patients.

Patients had found Pitney through Access to aid, an organization that connects people who wish to abort drugs with telemedicine service providers who can provide them with online counseling and order the pills for them. These providers include people like Pitney, who works with patients in states where abortion in telemedicine is legal, as well as Rebecca Gomperts, a Internationally based physician serving patients in the United States where it is not. In the week after politic published the draft opinion of the Court of Cassation which would be overturned roe deer v. veal, traffic to the Aid Access website rose to 114,000 visitors; That week, the group’s suppliers ordered pills for as many as 1,614 patients, roughly the same number as they served over two months last year, according to Pitney data.

Just a couple of years ago 1 in 5 people he also knew about drug abortion, which is something other than “morning after pillAnd involves taking a progesterone-blocking drug called mifepristone followed by several doses of the misoprostol ulcer pill. Proponents of the choice are trying to address this lack of knowledge by spreading the word online about drug abortions and the existence of services like Aid Access.

It is a crucial task as the country prepares for the fall roe deer Even in states with laws hostile to abortion, people will look for discreet ways to end their pregnancies and will need clear information on how to do it safely. But advocates looking to share facts about safe, self-managed abortions say they face a formidable challenge: Big Tech companies deleting their posts, suspending their accounts, or prioritizing their lists.

“In this postroe deer scenario, one of the most important things is that people are able to get quality information online, “says Erin Matson, co-founder and executive director of reproduction, a group of pro-choice activists. Earlier this year, Facebook blocked replication ads that contained accurate medical information about abortion pills, so it restored its posts after it was press coverage. “These are really about people who have safe and effective access to care, so it’s a scandal that our content has been suppressed,” says Matson. “It’s happening to a variety of organizations in the abortion industry.”

On Tuesday, during the busiest week ever for Aid Access, Instagram removed the organization’s account, saying it went against the platform’s “community standards”. The group believes the problem stems from a post informing people that Aid Access offered “upfront benefits” of the pills “in case you need them in the future.” Another account who tried to repost his artwork found that Instagram removed it for violating guidelines on “selling illegal or regulated goods”. (On Thursday, Instagram restored the Aid Access account. A Meta spokesperson said it had been removed in error.)

The incident was a minor inconvenience for Aid Access, whose website gets the most traffic from Reddit’s r / abortion forum, as well as from Plan C, an online information center on drug abortions. Yet Plan C itself has experienced posts and advertisements removed repeatedly from Instagram and Facebook, says Martha Dimitratou, the site’s social media manager. Last summer, days before a Texas law banning abortions after six weeks went into effect, the Plan C Instagram page was suspended entirely.

In February, a Plan C post on Instagram, a bright pink comic with basic information about the safety and availability of abortion pills in the mail, was removed for violating guidelines on “selling illegal or regulated goods,” according to the screenshots provided by Dimitratou. Plan C Facebook ads with phrases like “The abortion pills belong in the hands of the people who need them” are often rejected for failing to comply with a “dangerous substances” policy, the screenshots show.

It is worth repeating that abortion pills are extremely safe, FDA approved and legal to prescribe via telemedicine under federal regulations. It is only states politically hostile to abortion that have imposed further restrictions, such as requiring taking the first pill in the presence of a doctor, effectively banning the telemedicine of abortion. Plan C ads were similar to those blocked by Instagram recently left to plaster the New York subway. And conversely, sponsored ads for him, a telemedicine company offering generic Viagra, are Currently running freely across multiple meta platforms.

Dimitratou says that since early 2021, Facebook and Instagram have blocked about half of the ads he tried to run for another reproductive health service. Women on the web“Aid Access” counterpart for people outside the United States. Platforms sometimes cite rules that prohibit the “sale or use of dangerous substances”; other times they refer to a ban “products, services, schemes or offers that use deceptive or misleading practices”. The screenshots show an ad with the text “Unwanted pregnancy? Can we help” has been blocked for containing content that “claims or implies personal attributes”. Sometimes, when Dimitritou appeals to blocked ads, they are restored; often they are not. “It’s a constant thing,” says Dimitratou. “There’s a point we often reach with them where they say, ‘Well, that’s the way it is.’”

It’s not just Facebook and Instagram: on Twitter, Plan C can post normal tweets, but not advertising, because “we are dealing with sensitive content”, according to Dimitratrou. (Twitter did not respond to a request for comment.) Meanwhile on TikTok, users have repeatedly claimed that some pro-abortion content has been banned or suppressed. “It’s happened to so many of us, honestly,” said TikTok pro-choice creator Paige Alexandra. Jezebel last week, after his account was banned for no reason. “For example, I could list people, but all I have to say is that if they’ve made an abortion video, they know what I’m talking about.” (The platform does not ban the abortion topic, or “moderate or remove content based on political sensitivities,” says a spokesperson.) Pitney, who does Tiktok video on abortion in telemedicine, says her videos were removed for alleged “hate speech” and “bullying” before being restored. She assumes they were denounced en masse by activists opposed to the choice, since it is mainly his most popular posts that are affected. “My guess is that more people visit a particular post,” she says, “then more antis will see it too.”

Red states can pass laws that close abortion clinics. Big Tech can adapt its algorithms to promote access to abortion or make access to safe abortion resources more difficult. Just look at Google, whose search results algorithm was updated in May 2020. After the update, the Women on Web site appeared lower in search results, producing an immediate 75% drop in traffic, according to Dimitratou’s data, and a forte decline in the people who access its services. (“Our search ranking systems are designed to return relevant results from the most trusted sources and on critical health issues, we place even more emphasis on trustworthiness signals,” says a Google spokesperson. we make to The research is not intended to benefit or penalize any site. “)

So why are the social media giants’ content and advertising policies so patchy when it comes to access to abortion? A spokesperson for Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, says the company doesn’t have a single policy regulating abortion and that police teams can make “mistakes” when applying a variety of policies to drug abortion posts. . Meta policies allow for educational marketing on mifepristone and misoprostol, the spokesperson says, but prohibit the direct sale of pharmaceuticals.

The difficulty in keeping abortion access posts on Facebook is particularly ironic in light of the anti-abortion ads the company allows on its platform. The company sold up to $ 140,000 of ad space about an unproven and potentially dangerous “abortion reversal” treatment, according to a report last fall from Center for the fight against digital hate. (A study 2019 abortion cancellation treatment was stopped after a quarter of participants suffered severe bleeding.) In February, Representative Jerry Nadler (D-New York) sent a letter to Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg wondering why abortion pill cancellation announcements were allowed on the platform, while some accurate medical information about abortion was not. “I am concerned about recent reports that Facebook has regularly run anti-abortion advertisements that promote medical misinformation while simultaneously blocking accurate medical information about abortion services,” Nadler he wrote. “Given the recent onslaught of abortion restrictions that state legislatures have passed or are considering nationwide, it is imperative that women have access to accurate medical information on abortion treatment.”

it remains to be seen if Big Tech companies decide to block more abortion advertising once Roe is overthrown and state laws criminalizing this form of reproductive health care can go into effect. Dimitratou and others in their position are planning a meeting next month to discuss how to address the problem and create specific solutions to the demand of social media companies. For now, they use workarounds, such as writing “ab0rti0n” (with zeros) instead of “abortion”, or writing in Spanish, to bypass potential online censors. “When you have to try to do this kind of thing, I think it maybe also subconsciously means that ‘this is not completely correct,’” says Dimitratou. “There is a bit of shame. Especially for the youngest “.