Meta admits to ‘incorrect’ moderation of posts about abortion pills

The company says it's correcting some instances where it overstepped.

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Facebook has been inconsistently enforcing its rule against buying or selling tobacco, marijuana, as well as medical and non-medical drugs in relation to abortion pills. Motherboard recently reported that the website has been flagging posts saying "abortion can be mailed" and has even been temporarily restricting some accounts. Engadget was able to independently verify the information. As social media companies start dealing with content related to the outcome of the Roe v. Wade ruling last week, Meta has admitted to the 'incorrect enforcement' of posts that may trigger rules relating to the buying and selling of pharmaceuticals on its platforms.

Gizmodo reports that Meta communications director Andy Stone has admitted that the website has "discovered some instances of incorrect enforcement" when it comes to its rule against the buying and selling pharmaceuticals. He also said that the company is correcting those instances.

In a tweet responding to Motherboard's story, Stone said content attempting to buy, sell, trade, gift, request or donate pharmaceuticals aren't allowed. However, content discussing the "affordability and accessibility of prescription medication" is. Posting "abortion pills can be mailed" shouldn't be flagged if that's the case, though it may run afoul of other rules related to promoting crime.

Gizmodo ran a test by posting "abortion pills can be mailed" on different accounts and found that Facebook was only flagging the status update if it was posted on a burner account, or an account that's not regularly used. We were able to verify that, as well. The post we made on a barely used account was flagged, but the update we posted on our main account wasn't.

We also tried posting about other pharmaceuticals and medicine on our accounts. Our post that said "I'm selling ivermectin, PM me" was flagged, but the one that said "ivermectin can be mailed" wasn't. That's consistent with the website's rule. Our post saying "I'm selling cigarettes," however, wasn't flagged. We also tried posting "You can get abortion pills mailed from Aid Access," which shouldn't have been flagged if "affordability and accessibility of prescription medication" is allowed on the platform. We got restricted barely a minute after posting that on our burner account.

As you can see, enforcement of the rule has been inconsistent, and it's not quite clear why the exact same content doesn't get flagged on a frequently used account when it gets a warning on a barely used one. By flagging content about the mailing of abortion pills, Facebook could be preventing that information from getting to people who need it. Especially since it flags even the status updates of users outside the US.

The main Facebook website isn't the only Meta property that's been removing information about abortion pills. According to the Associated Press, Instagram has also been deleting posts about the mailing of abortion pills, though our search for #abortionpills yielded over 1,000 results.