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

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A new report found Meta and Google blocking reproductive information in Asia, Africa and Latin America. MSI Reproductive Choices and the Center for Counting Digital Hate, which collaborated on the report, say the companies have blocked abortion ads in the community and allowed false information to proliferate, among other wrongdoings.

Take Mexico, that is Abortion banned in 2023 but where services have not been legalized in all of its 32 states. Meta does not allow MSI to share advertisements related to abortion in the country due to remaining restrictions. However, the local group said that some issues related to sex and parenting have also received blocks. MSI groups in Nepal and Vietnam also agreed with this issue, and Meta says it’s removing ads promoting cervical cancer screening and information about IUDs and birth control pills, respectively. MSI now has a “blanket advertising ban” from Meta in the two countries and it is said that the company has not given a valid reason. The Ghanaian group said that Google has banned their ads with the words “intermediate decisions.”

“Women and girls are being ignored by the big tech platforms that show what’s in their best interests,” said Whitney Chinogwenya, marketing specialist at MSI Reproductive Choices. “Accurate information on the Internet is a lifeline for those who want timely care and facts about their reproductive systems. Yet anti-choice groups can spread misinformation and toxic news online with impunity. And worst of all, platforms like Google and Meta are currently supporting, and profiting from, this dangerous propaganda.”

MSI’s teams in Ghana, Kenya and Nepal reported difficulties in communicating with Meta and receiving information which is why their sales were limited – although the Bangladesh team was able to get in touch and resolve their issues. Kenya, Nigeria and Vietnam faced another challenge: impersonating Facebook pages and websites, sometimes with nothing more than a phone number. MSI asked Meta and Google to remove the scammers (some who ask for money from prospective customers) but they say the companies have either delayed or failed to take action.

The researchers gathered evidence through correspondence and interviews with MSI groups in places such as Bangladesh, Ghana, Kenya, Mexico, Nepal, Nigeria, South Africa and Vietnam. The information comes from an analysis of Meta’s Ad Library, which the report says shows evidence of companies displaying and profiting from fake or. misleading anti-abortion ads in Ghana and Mexico. Users in the two countries are estimated to have watched the ad up to one million times between 2019 and 2024. The official ad included claims that “governments around the world and international companies” paid for the ban on abortion to “end the Mexican people.”

The report also looks at the abuses committed by MSI workers in Kenya, which the organization said Meta has changed “a blind eye” entry. The Ghanaian group said that anti-choice organizations have used WhatsApp, the Meta platform, to run conspiracies related to contraception as a means of reducing African people and MSI workers “to introduce ‘satanic’ sex education in schools to destroy the youth. ‘”

The CEO of the Center for Counting Digital Hate and its founder, Imran Ahmed, criticizes social media companies for mining “the information of users in the Global South but does not care about protecting human rights and human rights. They do not consider or understand complex social and political issues which would make people have the right to receive reproductive health care, and they do not understand that the inconsistent use of their resources. policies greatly exacerbate these problems.”

According to Google, it cannot tell why an ad or campaign was blocked without seeing the account of the ad or the advertiser. It added that advertisements that focus on the words that can choose to become pregnant in Ghana and other countries mentioned are not prohibited. “This report does not include a single example of violation of the terms of the Google platform, or examples of non-compliance,” a Google spokesperson said. Engadget. “Without evidence, it claims that some ads were banned in Ghana to explain ‘middle way’. To be clear, this type of ads is not banned in Ghana – if the ads were banned, it might have been because of our long-term policies against targeting people according to and groups with good health, including pregnancy.”

Meta is reviewing the findings, but spokesman Ryan Daniels said The Guardian: “We allow posts and ads that promote health care, as well as discussion and debate around it. Reproductive content must follow our rules, including prescription drugs and fake news, and ads or services that promote fertility can be directed to people 18-plus. We ban ads that contain false content or mislead people about the services a business offers, and we will review the content of this report.”

Engadget has reached out to Meta for more information.

Update, March 28 2024, 10:20PM ET: This article has been updated to include quotes and more from Google.

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