Meta and Google face claims of restricting reproductive health ads and fueling misinformation

A new report Meta and Google restrict reproductive health information in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. The MSI Center for Reproductive Choices and the Fight Against Digital Hate, which collaborated on the report, alleges that the companies restricted advertising from local abortion providers and engaged in misinformation, among other wrongdoings.

Take Mexico, which Abortion was decriminalized in 2023 but where the services are not yet legal in all 32 states. Meta will not allow MSI to share abortion-related advertising content in the country due to remaining restrictions. However, the local team reported that other sexual and reproductive health content was also blocked. MSI’s teams in Nepal and Vietnam echoed this issue It claims to remove meta ads promoting cervical cancer screening and information about IUDs and birth control pills, respectively. MSI now has a “blanket ad ban” from Meta in two countries, claiming the company has provided no clear justification. The Ghanaian team reported that Google blocked their ads with the phrase “pregnancy options.”

“Women and girls are being neglected by these mainstream tech platforms that put their own profits ahead of the public good,” said Whitney Chinogwenya, marketing specialist at MSI Reproductive Options. “Accurate information online is a lifeline for those seeking facts about their reproductive choices and care. However, anti-choice groups are able to spread misinformation and toxic stories online with impunity. And worst of all, platforms like Google and Meta now, and this dangerous profits from propaganda”.

MSI’s teams in Ghana, Kenya and Nepal reported difficulty contacting Meta and getting information on why their ads were limited – although the Bangladesh team was able to get in touch and resolve their issues. Kenya, Nigeria and Vietnam faced another problem: fake Facebook pages and websites, sometimes with nothing more than a phone number. MSI demanded that Meta and Google remove these scams (some of which were extorting money from potential customers), but alleged that the companies delayed or failed to take action.

The researchers gathered evidence through correspondence and interviews with MSI teams in places such as Bangladesh, Ghana, Kenya, Mexico, Nepal, Nigeria, South Africa and Vietnam. Additional information came from an analysis of Meta’s Ad Library, which the report claimed showed evidence that the company was profiting from fake or advertising. misleading Anti-abortion ads in Ghana and Mexico. Users in these two countries reportedly viewed these ads up to one million times between 2019 and 2024. Among the confirmed ads were allegations that “global powers and international companies” paid to decriminalize abortion to “destroy the Mexican population.”

The report also looks at abuses directed against MSI’s staff in Kenya, which the organization claims Meta “blind eyeAccording to the Ghanaian team, anti-choice organizations have introduced “satanic” sex education in schools to “destroy the youth” from WhatsApp, a platform owned by Meta, to create conspiracies around family planning in Africa and MSI staff. ‘”

Imran Ahmed, CEO and founder of the Center Against Digital Hate, accuses social media companies of “mining the personal data of users in the Global South, but paying little attention to protecting local human rights and civil liberties. It smacks of colonialism – greed, arrogance, and underserved markets.” double standards. They have little consideration or understanding of the complex cultural and political factors that can deprive people of their legal rights to reproductive health care, nor do they understand the uneven application of their content moderation policies that exacerbate these problems.”

According to Google, it cannot tell why any ad or campaign is blocked without seeing the specific ad or advertiser account. He also said advertisements targeting pregnancy are not banned in Ghana and other listed countries. “This report does not contain any examples of policy or inconsistent enforcement of content on the Google platform,” a Google spokesperson said. Engadget. “Without proof, it claims that some ads in Ghana are blocked because they refer to ‘pregnancy choices.’ vs. targeting people based on sensitive health categories, including pregnancy.

Meta is reviewing the findings, however, spokesman Ryan Daniels said Guardian: “We allow posts and ads promoting health services, as well as discussions and debates around them. Content related to reproductive health, including prescription drugs and misinformation, must comply with our guidelines, and ads promoting reproductive health products or services must be directed only to these individuals People over the age of 18. We prohibit advertising that misinforms or misleads people about the services a business provides and will review the content of this report.”

Engadget Meta has been contacted for further comment.

Update, March 28, 2024, 10:20 PM ET: This article has been updated to include a statement from Google and additional information.

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