‘Patterns Of Censorship’: Meta’s Oversight Board Rules That Company Stifled Speech By Removing Posts About Abortion

(Photo by STEFANI REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images)

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Kate Anderson Contributor
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Meta’s Oversight Board ruled Wednesday that Facebook and Instagram showed “patterns of censorship” by removing posts about abortion that the social media platforms claimed constituted death threats.

The board had been weighing a series of posts that were initially taken down by Meta, Facebook and Instagram’s parent company, for potential death threats against both pro-abortion and pro-life advocates before being reinstated after appeals from the users. The board took up the case in June and announced this week that Facebook had erred by removing the posts, according to the ruling. (RELATED: Blue State Governor Readies Push To Make Abortions Even Easier To Get)

“While Meta acknowledges its original decisions were wrong and none of the posts violated its Violence and Incitement policy, these cases raise concerns about whether Meta’s approach to assessing violent rhetoric is disproportionately impacting abortion debates and political expression,” the decision reads.

One of the posts was from a Facebook account that 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 overview of the cases in the ruling. The second and third posts were focused on a GOP bill in South Carolina that pro-abortion advocates argued would mean a woman could face the death penalty if convicted.

Anit-abortion activists hold signs outside the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC, on June 24, 2022. (Photo by STEFANI REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images)

As a result, the second post claimed that the bill was so pro-life that “we’ll kill you dead if you get an abortion,” and the third post argued that pro-life legislators believed it was “wrong to kill, so we are going to kill you,” according to the decision. The board determined, however, that the posts could not be “reasonably interpreted as threatening or inciting violence.”

“While each uses some variation of ‘we will kill you,’ expressed in a mock first-person voice to emphasize opposing viewpoints, none of the posts expresses a threat or intent to commit violence,” the board wrote. “Discussion of abortion policy is often highly charged and can include threats that are prohibited by Meta. Therefore, it is important Meta ensure that its systems can reliably distinguish between threats and non-violating, rhetorical uses of violent language.”

The board expressed concerns that the social media platform had not convinced them that the “errors in these cases are outliers” and not a systematic problem, according to the ruling. The board further noted that Meta needs to regularly provide data used in its “Violence and Incitement Policy” so the board is able to analyze the social media platform’s accuracy when striking content.

A spokesperson for Meta told the Daily Caller News Foundation in a prepared statement that the company “welcomes this decision.”

“The board overturned Meta’s original decision to remove the content from the platforms,” the statement reads. “Meta previously reinstated this content, and as a result, no further action will be taken on the case content. After conducting a review of the recommendation provided by the board in addition to their decision, we will update this page.”

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