Messages from Facebook users posting about abortion pills were deleted this week, and in some cases their accounts were temporarily suspended for violating the company’s terms of service, which prohibits the purchase, sale or exchange of drugs. However, testing done by Gizmodo and previous Vice reports show that Facebook flags only certain, less active accounts and leaves little room for differentiation between active online drug sales and posts attempting to spread the word about the availability of legal abortion methods online. . The company has experienced “wrong execution” of some messages.
Vice report On Monday, detailed reports from users who claimed their posts were deleted and their accounts suspended after posting access to abortion by mail. One user claimed that Facebook removed his post less than a minute after it was posted. “I will mail abortion pills to any of you,” users wrote. “Just text me.” Using the account to write, Vice reporters posted the phrase “abortion pills can be mailed” which was flagged within seconds as a violation of Facebook’s drug policy.
Gizmodo attempted to replicate these results by using the phrase “abortion pills can be mailed in.” Both of these authors were successfully able to post this phrase on our personal accounts without any incident. However, when the same phrase was posted using one of our less active “incendiary” accounts, the post was flagged almost immediately. Above the post was a warning from Meta: “Your post is against our Community Standards on Drugs.”
While Facebook’s terms of service explicitly prohibit the purchase or sale of pharmaceuticals on its platform, it’s unclear whether the term “abortion pills” is Can be sent by mail” matches this description. Instead, users trying to let others know about their abortion options during a time of ongoing stress and uncertainty have in some cases been denied access to the platform on the world’s largest social network.
Gizmodo then attempted to write a series of posts that would more clearly violate Facebook’s terms by explicitly offering abortion pills as a product for sale. We posted the phrase “I’ll sell you abortion pills, text me” on both the active personal account and the less active burner account. Once again, this post was posted on an active account without any incident and was flagged only on the burner account.
In response to a series of questions sent to Gizmodo, a Meta representative pointed us to a statement by Meta Communications Director Andy Stone, who acknowledged that there were instances of “wrong execution.”
“Content that attempts to buy, sell, trade, gift, solicit or donate pharmaceuticals is not allowed,” Stone said. “Content that discusses the availability of prescription drugs is allowed. We have identified several instances of misappropriation and are correcting them.”
It remains unclear exactly Why some accounts have received warnings or temporary bans, while others have not received the exact same phrases, although we have noticed what looks like a pattern. In all of our test posts, Facebook’s detection system only flagged abortion-related content posted from less active accounts. This distinction seemed to hold true even for non-abortion content. Vice reporters on Monday, for example, said they successfully posted the phrase “pain pills can be mailed” without any problems. When Gizmodo attempted to post a test using the synthetic opioid fentanyl from a burner account, the post was immediately flagged as a violation of the site’s drug policy.
Meta did not respond to Gizmodo’s follow-up questions about why contributing accounts are more likely to be tagged for posting the same content as more active accounts.
Complications and confusion related to the content of abortion care are also not limited to the Big Blue app. NBC News informed On Monday, Instagram removed several posts and restricted the visibility of at least two hashtags related to abortion services following a Supreme Court ruling last week. According to the report, searches for “mifepristone,” one of the most popular options for medical abortion, and for “abortion pills,” returned no results. The hashtags of these terms were reported to display a message warning users that flagged posts were “hidden as some posts may not be in line with Instagram’s Community Guidelines.” Gizmodo tried to reproduce these results on Tuesday morning, but returned over 1,000 results for each term.
An NBC report claims that at least two abortion resource organizations and at least a dozen Instagram users said the photo-sharing app deleted their abortion-related posts on Monday. These deleted posts allegedly differed in content. Some users were allegedly flagged simply for having access to abortion pills, while others were allegedly flagged for offering a place to stay to out-of-state abortion seekers. One of the abortion organizations is Abortion Finder. claims Instagram suspended their account for four hours for allegedly violating Instagram’s community guidelines regarding guns, animals, and other regulated goods.
Even under the most obvious circumstances, the question of how to treat content related to the distribution of pharmaceuticals is a problem for Facebook and any other major platform. While advocacy groups argue that the easy distribution of abortion pills could provide a much-needed escape route for women living in states where abortion is illegal, increase stories of abuse and accidental misuse of pharmaceuticals are prompting Facebook to take a tough stance on banning the sale of drugs on its platform.
However, the current approach appears to have resulted in the removal of some posts intended simply to inform users or their medical options rather than attempting to sell any particular product. While there is no shortage of uncertainty associated with the abolition Caviar, quick and reliable access to information about available health services has quickly gone from useful to essential.
Shoshana Vodinsky contributed reporting.
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