- The Meta Oversight board is weighing potential new policies that could moderate how abortion and pro-life advocates are able to discuss the topic on social media.
- The board’s review was prompted by several posts on both sides of the aisle on Facebook and Instagram.
- “Even the notion of an international body determining a group of American public comments on abortion, [is] just crazy,” Jake Denton, research associate for the Tech Policy Center at the Heritage Foundation, told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
Meta’s Oversight Board is discussing whether to draft new policy recommendations for posts that include the word “kill” when discussing abortion and could change how activists are able to engage in the online debate, according to a June announcement.
In March, several posts on Facebook and Instagram were taken down for potentially calling for violence and death threats against both pro-abortion and pro-life advocates, according to Slate. The posts were later reinstated after appeals from the account holders, and prompted Meta’s Oversight Board, which was approved by Mark Zuckerburg in 2018 and consists of 20 experts, to announce that it would be using the posts to look into new policy suggestions on the issue. (RELATED: Meta Officially Begins Process Of Ending News Access For Canadians)
“It is important to understand the power that is in the hands of this Oversight Board,” Andrea Trudden, vice president of communications and marketing for Heartbeat International, told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “Their job is to do what they can to ensure the safety of their users, not to determine what words are allowed and what issues can be discussed.”
The first example involved a Facebook user who posted an image titled “Pro-Abortion Logic” that read “We don’t want you to be poor, starved or unwanted. So we’ll just kill you instead,” according to the board’s announcement. The second and third posts involved a GOP bill in South Carolina that sought to change the state’s criminal code to include abortion as a form of homicide.
The bill states that a woman convicted of getting an abortion would be subject to the same penalties as someone convicted of homicide, prompting pro-abortion advocates to warn that women could face the death penalty as a result. One of the posts argued that the bill’s logic was so pro-life that “we’ll kill you dead if you get an abortion,” and the other post asked why state legislators felt that it was “wrong to kill so we are going to kill you,” according to the announcement.
The posts were the subject of several hearings by Meta, who eventually determined that no actual death threats were made in any of the posts and reinstated them after the Oversight Board announced that it would be looking into the matter, according to the announcement.
Kristi Hamrick, vice president of Media & Policy at Students for Life Action, told the DCNF that many pro-lifers are not confident in Meta’s track record to prevent discrimination.
Facebook has been accused in the past of censoring pro-life groups. In 2018, the platform removed a post by pro-life group LiveAction that compared abortion to slavery and the holocaust for violating its hate speech policy, and in 2020, Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri demanded Zuckerberg account for his platform’s suspension of advertising privileges for several pro-life groups.
E.V. Osment, vice president of communication at Susan B. Anthony (SBA) Pro-Life America, told the DCNF that while the posts the board are examining would never have been put out by reputable pro-life groups, the First Amendment did guarantee the right to use them.
“The interesting thing is that these three posts that are currently under review are not posts that we would have published, but none of them meet Meta’s criteria for violence and incitement,” Osment said. “We believe that this really boils down to free speech around discussing what abortion is not just having Meta define it by one side’s definition.”
The board asked the public to submit their opinions on the topic by June 29 to allow the members to have a broader and more thorough discussion, and is expected to reach a decision in the coming weeks, Oversight Board Spokesperson Dan Chaison told the DCNF. SBA Pro-Life America sent a letter to Meta in June following the announcement, pointing out that abortion itself is an “act of violence” and that the board should consider this when evaluating policy suggestions for social media.
Dr. Christina Francis, an obstetrician, gynecologist and CEO of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, told the DCNF that she was pleased that the board opened the discussion to the public and that they were unique in the social media sphere to do so. Dr. Francis said that she would encourage the board to consult medical professionals and “read accurate information about that health care,” even if it may “contradict the prevailing political narrative.”
Pro-abortion organizations also sent letters of recommendation to the board. One letter from the Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sent in June similarly requested that posts with the word “kill” when discussing abortion on Meta’s platforms should not be removed.
“Both people who have chosen to receive abortions and those who have not need to be able to talk openly about their choices to build community with others who have faced a similar decision,” the letter reads. “Both pro and anti-choice activists exercising their right to freely assemble need to be able to express their opinions to mobilize action and respond to the wave of abortion-related legislation being introduced across the US.”
Jake Denton, research associate for the Tech Policy Center at the Heritage Foundation, told the DCNF that an international board of advisors shouldn’t be allowed to tell Americans how they can or cannot discuss the topic of abortion on social media.
“Even the notion of an international body determining a group of American public comments on abortion [is] just crazy,” Denton said. “I know the whole oversight board thing symbolic in nature, but just that premise of the international academics determining what’s acceptable speech in America is quite crazy.”
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