How Meta Created a Wild West for Abortion Misinformation

“…Now these posts are at the center of Oversight Board cases that will establish guidelines for how Meta should moderate abortion-related content. Specifically, the board—a panel of 22 researchers, advocates, and policymakers who advise Meta on content moderation—is considering how the tech giant “should treat content that uses the word ‘kill’ while discussing abortion and its legality.” But beyond the specific moderation issues within the cases, the board will also evaluate how Meta’s enforcement practices shape the conversation about abortion in America. The outcome could have profound implications for abortion access.

The Oversight Board is expected to announce its recommendations (shaped in part by public comments) in the coming weeks. While the recommendations are nonbinding, the cases themselves reflect a broader issue: Meta is not prepared to moderate content on abortion. Unlike YouTube, Meta has no policies that specifically address abortion, according to the Institute for Strategic Dialogue. When asked about the guidelines the platform currently uses to moderate abortion-related content, a Meta spokesperson said in an email that posts must follow existing rules, “including those on: prescription drugs, misinformation, coordinating harm, bullying and harassment, violence and incitement, and violent and graphic content.” But applying this patchwork of more general policies risks inconsistencies. It’s notable that for all three of the posts the Oversight Board is currently considering, applying the violence and incitement policy was inappropriate. Existing policies don’t account for the specific challenges posed by abortion content—Meta’s policy against “harmful health misinformation,” for example, doesn’t mention reproductive health.

Meanwhile, abortion misinformation abounds. The Center for Countering Digital Hate found that Facebook ads promoting abortion pill reversal, a dangerous and unsubstantiated procedure, were shown 18.4 million times to women and girls as young as 13. Media Matters reported that Meta showed more than 800 political ads that contained abortion misinformation, resulting in over 37.6 million impressions. According to ISD, an ad showing an animation of a fetus being dismembered in the womb and having its skull crushed, in violation of Meta’s violent and graphic content policy, was active for more than a month. (In an email, the Meta spokesperson said all ads must comply with the platform’s ads policy, and noted that the platform prohibits ads that “repeatedly use shocking imagery to further a point of view.”…”

By Molly
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