In the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, some Facebook and Instagram users planning to help distribute legal abortion pills are finding themselves censored.
According to a Motherboard report, users on Friday began seeing Facebook remove posts offering to mail abortion pills — the same day that the Supreme Court issued the ruling.
Remarkably, Facebook’s moderation on the issue was so aggressive that users saw their posts removed within seconds. One user observed that their account was suspended after a post that read “I will mail abortion pills to any one of you. Just message me.”
Motherboard was able to replicate the phenomenon, also earning a 24-hour account suspension in the process. The key phrase for automated removal appears to be “abortion pills” as other posts with other combination of terms didn’t flag the platform’s moderation systems.
The Associated Press reported similar behavior on Instagram, with some users seeing their posts offering to support others in obtaining abortion pills removed “within moments.” The AP made a test post repeating the message about abortion pills and also saw the message removed in less than a minute.
Meta Policy Communications Director Andy Stone addressed in a Twitter reply reports of both platforms censoring posts about abortion pills, noting that the company’s policies do not allow transactions of prescription drugs.
Stone admitted that Meta found “some instances of incorrect enforcement” of its rules, though declined to clarify in more detail. He did not explain why posts with the phrase “abortion pills” saw such swift enforcement, even while other prohibited content about guns, pain pills and cannabis did not.
Stone cited Meta’s rules on restricted goods and services, which prohibit efforts to buy, sell or trade pharmaceuticals except in cases where “legitimate healthcare e-commerce businesses” offer delivery.
Instagram also tweeted Tuesday that some users were seeing “sensitivity screens” hiding posts that shouldn’t be hidden. The company called the behavior a bug and confirmed to TechCrunch that it was related to user reports about abortion-related content being censored. A Meta spokesperson noted that posts about abortion aren’t the only topic affected by the “bug,” but did not name other kinds of content that were affected.
With the aftershocks of the Supreme Court’s Roe decision beginning to reverberate, prescription abortion pills are poised to be a topic of extreme controversy. The White House issued a fact sheet on Friday noting the administration’s plans to defend access to mifepristone, which has been FDA approved to end pregnancy for over two decades.
The fact sheet mentioned that the Biden administration would work with Health and Human Services to “identify all ways” to maximize access to mifepristone, including through telehealth and the mail. As the legal status of mifepristone faces potential future state-level challenges, Biden’s Department of Justice could also become involved.
“And we stand ready to work with other arms of the federal government that seek to use their lawful authorities to protect and preserve access to reproductive care,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said. “… States may not ban Mifepristone based on disagreement with the FDA’s expert judgment about its safety and efficacy.”