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Rights groups demand Meta stops “censoring” abortion content

A coalition of civil society organizations tells Mark Zuckerberg in an open letter to stop restricting access to information on reproductive healthcare and rights across Meta’s social media platforms.

Meta, a parent company of Facebook and Instagram, has come under fire for removing posts and hashtags about access to reproductive care, which was heavily restricted in some US states following the Supreme Court’s decision to overrule a constitutional right to an abortion.

Some content that mentioned abortion medication and offered to send it to those in need – which is legal under federal law – was taken down mere moments after the court’s decision.

An open letter signed by Access Now, Amnesty International USA, Fight for the Future, Human Rights Watch, and the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said that Meta’s actions “unduly” restricted the right to freedom of expression and contravened its responsibility to respect human rights.

“Meta’s censorship of information on abortion and reproductive health is jeopardizing the safety and human rights of millions across the US,” Jennifer Brody, US policy and advocacy manager at Access Now, said in a statement.

"Anti-abortion regime"

Following reports of censorship, Meta said it would not permit selling or gifting pharmaceuticals on its platforms but insisted that content on the affordability and accessibility of prescription medication was allowed. It also acknowledged that in some instances, it enforced its community guidelines incorrectly and was working to address the issue.

Rights campaigners say this is not enough and call on Meta to share more data about the removed content. They say Meta should also clarify how posts relating to abortion rights and medication violate its community standards.

“Time and again the company has deflected the question, but users of Facebook and Instagram have the right to know whether or not the company is going to defend their human rights or if it plans to roll over under the current, anti-abortion regime,” Caitlin Seeley George, director of campaigns at Fight for the Future, said.

Growing pressure

In the letter, advocacy groups said that existing community standards on Meta’s social platforms were inadequate in protecting the right to information on sexual and reproductive health and urged the company to ensure greater transparency and guarantee that human rights are respected.

This follows a similar appeal from Senators Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar, who also sent a letter to Zuckerberg last month to express their concern over Meta “censoring” posts on Facebook and Instagram.

Meanwhile, Meta faced further criticism after it emerged Facebook handed over private messages of a Nebraska teenager to the police, which led to criminal charges against her and her mother for violating a state ban on most abortions after 20 weeks.

It adds to the fears that data from text messages, online searches, or period-tracking apps could be used to prosecute people in abortion cases. Democrat lawmakers have stepped in to address these concerns by proposing bills that could restrict personal reproductive health data collection and retention.

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