Facebook Rejected Ads From 60 Women’s Sexual Health Companies According to New Report


A breastfeeding workshop, pants for postpartum consolation, consent schooling: These are a number of of the providers and merchandise featured in advertisements that Facebook has rejected, in accordance to a brand new report from the Center for Intimacy Justice.

For the report, Jackie Rotman, the nonprofit group’s founder, interviewed staff and leaders at greater than 35 corporations targeted on points associated to girls’s sexual well being — together with pelvic ache, menopause, menstruation and fertility — and surveyed dozens extra. (The survey was created in partnership with Origin, a pelvic flooring bodily remedy firm.)

All 60 corporations had advertisements rejected by Facebook, and about half of them mentioned their accounts had been suspended in some unspecified time in the future, in accordance to the report, which was launched on (*60*). In most instances, Facebook had labeled the advertisements as containing “adult content” or selling “adult products and services.”

In its promoting insurance policies, Facebook says that “ads promoting sexual and reproductive health products or services, like contraception and family planning must be targeted to people 18 years or older and must not focus on sexual pleasure.”

On its web site, Facebook offers examples of advertisements that aren’t permitted (“buy our sex toys for your adult pleasure”) and people which can be (“new moisturizing lube to relieve vaginal dryness on a day to day basis” and “practice safe sex with our brand of condoms”).

Still, Ms. Rotman discovered many advertisements concentrating on males that have been accepted by Facebook regardless of showing to break the social media platform’s coverage: an advert for condoms that guarantees “pleasure”; one for lubricant (“lotion made just for men’s alone time”); and one other for an erectile dysfunction tablet that guarantees a “wet hot American summer.”

“Right now, it’s arbitrary where they’ll say a product is or isn’t allowed in a way that we think has really sexist undertones and a lack of understanding about health,” Ms. Rotman mentioned. She mentioned that it was “a systemic problem” and added that it’s particularly detrimental to small companies.

“We welcome ads for sexual wellness products but we prohibit nudity and have specific rules about how these products can be marketed on our platform,” a spokesperson for Meta, Facebook’s mother or father firm, wrote in an electronic mail. “We have provided detail to advertisers about what kinds of products and descriptions we allow in ads.”

The spokesperson added that Facebook makes errors in imposing its promoting insurance policies and that it has overturned a number of advert rejections that a few of the corporations talked about within the report skilled.

One firm that has struggled to get advertisements permitted by Facebook is Joylux, which sells menopausal well being merchandise, together with a tool that’s inserted into the vagina and is used to strengthen the pelvic flooring.

“Our consumer is a Facebook consumer,” mentioned Colette Courtion, the chief govt of Joylux, who based the corporate in 2014. “She’s a 50-year-old woman. Facebook is the best place for her to be educated on menopause-related topics.” Ms. Courtion added that Facebook is Joylux’s prime customer-acquisition channel.

But, she mentioned, Joylux staff have lengthy been confused by Facebook’s insurance policies and the way they’re utilized.

“Because of the nature of our product, the look of it,” she mentioned, Facebook and different corporations consider it’s “pornographic.”

Since 2017, Joylux’s Facebook account has been shut down twice, Ms. Courtion mentioned. The firm didn’t inform her why.

Heather Dazell, the vice chairman of selling at Joylux, mentioned she has discovered that “any ad going directly to our site would be automatically denied because of the word ‘vagina.’”

A spokesperson for Meta mentioned that Facebook doesn’t have a blanket ban on phrases like “menopause” or “vagina” however considers “how each ad is positioned.”

Over the years, Joylux has pulled again its strategy to Facebook advertisements. But even with the adjustments Joylux has made to its copy and imagery, a lot of its advertisements are nonetheless rejected within the preliminary evaluation course of. Two years in the past, Joylux began working with an company that helps the corporate attraction advert rejections. Usually, after the attraction, the advertisements are permitted.

But the method is time-consuming and costly, Ms. Courtion mentioned, and the ensuing advertisements aren’t useful to customers. “We can’t show what the product looks like and we can’t say what it does,” she mentioned.

Intimate Rose, an organization in Kansas City, Mo., that sells vaginal dilators and pelvic-floor weights and wands, has confronted related points. “We’re normally always rejected,” mentioned Adrienne Fleming, the corporate’s digital media supervisor.

She supplied a number of examples, together with an advert with a completely clothed, laughing couple (“live, laugh, and love again with pelvic health products from Intimate Rose,” its copy reads). Two different advertisements featured movies of girls discussing how Intimate Rose weights have helped them with incontinence. Ms. Fleming mentioned all the advertisements have been rejected as a result of Facebook categorized them as “adult products or services.”

In the grownup merchandise part of its commerce coverage, Meta provides a number of examples of things which can be banned: “sex toys, sexual enhancement products, sexually oriented adult products such as pornography, or used or worn underwear, images of nudity including partial child nudity, even if not sexual in nature.”

But the coverage states that “products such as lubricants or condoms, which do not focus on sexual pleasure or sexual enhancement” are allowed.

In an alternate with Facebook that she shared with The New York Times, Ms. Fleming identified that the corporate’s merchandise aren’t meant for intercourse or pleasure. In response, the Facebook consultant pointed to the commerce coverage and mentioned that the advert was accurately rejected, and that he wouldn’t give you the option to reveal any extra particulars as a result of they could possibly be used to circumvent the coverage sooner or later.

“It comes down to the reviewer’s judgment,” mentioned Aaron Wilt, one of many founders of Intimate Rose.

Businesses aren’t the one entities that use Facebook advertisements. RNW Media, a nonprofit within the Netherlands, builds on-line communities for social change — together with Love Matters, which is targeted on sexual and reproductive well being and rights, and depends on Facebook advertisements to attain its viewers.

During a span of six years, practically 1,800 advertisements that Love Matters posted to Facebook have been rejected, in accordance to a report on the sustainability of journalism and information media that was offered on the United Nations Internet Governance Forum in 2020. Most typically, the explanation was that the advertisements have been categorized as “adult content” or as “sex toys.”

Michael Okun Oliech, the social media director for Love Matters Kenya, mentioned Facebook not too long ago rejected two advertisements he submitted for selling an “escort service.” One of them was about consent; the opposite was about dwelling with H.I.V.

He mentioned that the appeals course of takes him wherever from per week to months and that he not often has the chance to converse with “a real human being.” To keep away from rejection, Mr. Okun Oliech has began utilizing slang and substituting fruit emojis for phrases that describe sure physique elements (a tactic that has been profitable for corporations similar to Hims, which sells Viagra).

But Charlotte Petty, a human rights professional at RNW Media, is apprehensive concerning the penalties of being oblique or euphemistic. “There are ways we can mitigate the censorship, but at one point, we’re compromising our own work,” she mentioned.

Facebook’s advert platform has been criticized repeatedly lately. In 2018, a Washington Post investigation discovered that dozens of advertisements for L.G.B.T.Q.-related occasions, corporations and nonprofits have been blocked by the social community as a result of they have been deemed “political.” Facebook, which requires advertisers specializing in politics or social points to undergo a number of further layers for advert approval, referred to as nearly all of the advert rejections a mistake.

In November, Meta mentioned it could cease advertisers from concentrating on folks with promotions primarily based on their engagement with content material associated to well being, race and ethnicity, political affiliation, faith, and sexual orientation, amongst different identifiers. The instruments have been used to discriminate towards particular teams and to spam folks.

When it comes to the sexual well being and wellness corporations, Ms. Rotman is hopeful that Facebook can act rapidly. “This is a fixable problem,” she mentioned. “It’s not as complicated as protecting democracy or elections. It’s about finding a way to make sure that women’s health ads aren’t being blocked. It’s simply a matter of Facebook deciding that this is something they’re going to fix.”

Ryan Mac contributed reporting.