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Meta is taking down posts about abortion pills on Facebook and Instagram, saying they violate its community standards policy

June 29, 2022, 9:14 PM UTC
Girl looks at an Abortion Pill (RU-486) for unintended pregnancy from Mifepristone displayed on a smartphone.
Meta is taking down posts about abortion pills, saying they violate the company’s community standards policy.
Olivier Douliery—AFP/Getty Images

When the Supreme Court handed down its decision on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health last week and in doing so overturned Roe v. Wade, social media platforms were immediately flooded with posts about its impact on abortion access across the U.S.

Many provided information on how people in states with bans could still circumvent a more restrictive legal landscape—primarily through ordering abortion pills online. 

Media insights firm Zignal Labs found that mentions of abortion pills increased significantly in the days following the Supreme Court’s ruling across social media, broadcasts, traditional media, and online sites. Mifepristone and misoprostol, drugs used to induce and treat abortions orally—were mentioned 75,000 and 35,000 times, respectively, according to the firm. 

Meta immediately began taking down many of those posts on its platforms, Motherboard and the Associated Press reported, citing violations of its community standards policy.

“Abortion can be mailed,” wrote a Motherboard reporter using a burner Facebook account on Friday. The post was flagged as a violation within seconds, with the user asked to “agree” or “disagree” with the violation, Motherboard reported

A reporter for the Associated Press made a similar post, which was removed within one minute. “If you send me your address, I will mail you abortion pills,” the post read. 

Both posts fell under review owing to Facebook’s policies relating to restricted goods and services. “To encourage safety and compliance with common legal restrictions, we prohibit attempts by individuals, manufacturers and retailers to purchase, sell or trade non-medical drugs, pharmaceutical drugs and marijuana,” reads the company’s policy.

Meta allows for certain exceptions to its ban on content that relates to exchange of pharmaceuticals, including posts that discuss vaccine prices in an explicit educational context and delivery offerings by “legitimate” health care e-commerce businesses.  

Attempts to donate or gift drugs are also forbidden, as are most posts that are formulated as explicit requests for drugs. 

“Content that attempts to buy, sell, trade, gift, request or donate pharmaceuticals is not allowed,” tweeted a spokesperson for Meta in response to Motherboard’s article, adding that posts about affordability and accessibility are permitted. 

“We’ve discovered some instances of incorrect enforcement and are correcting them,” the spokesperson continued.

The current moment is not the first time that abortion discourse has complicated Meta’s communications and content policies. In May, The Verge reported that the company’s internal communications policy prohibits employees from posting “opinions or debates about abortion being right or wrong, availability or rights of abortion, and political, religious, and humanitarian views on the topic” on an internal communications tool called Workplace. The policy has been in effect since 2019.

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