After the Supreme Court ruled to overturn Roe v. Wade on Friday, Facebook and Instagram began quickly deleting posts from users offering to ship abortion pills to those in need. In one instance, as the Associated Press reported, an Instagram user told their followers on Friday to “DM me if you want to order abortion pills, but want them sent to my address instead of yours.” The offer was posted minutes after the Supreme Court ruling was made public and taken down moments later, according to the AP. Additionally, Motherboard noted that one Facebook user had their account suspended after writing, “I will mail abortion pills to any one of you. Just message me.”
On Monday, Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, explained this policy following the publication of Motherboard’s report. “Content that attempts to buy, sell, trade, gift, request or donate pharmaceuticals is not allowed. Content that discusses the affordability and accessibility of prescription medication is allowed,” tweeted Meta spokesman Andy Stone. “We’ve discovered some instances of incorrect enforcement and are correcting these.”
This speedy removal was still occurring on Tuesday. Seconds after I published Facebook posts that read “DM me your address and I can ship you abortion pills” and “You can use my address if you need a place to ship abortion pills,” I received the following notification in both cases: “Your post goes against our Community Standards on drugs. No one else can see your post. We have these standards to encourage safety and compliance with common legal restrictions.” I shared the same posts on Instagram, and they were both quickly taken down. (Unlike in the case reported by Motherboard, neither account received a suspension.)
However, after rewording the posts with intentional typos—for example, “DM if you need ab0rti0n p1lls and you can pick them up from my address”—neither Facebook nor Instagram removed them.
In light of the Supreme Court ruling, the legality of FDA-approved abortion pills mifepristone and misoprostol, which were authorized for mail order last year, remains in question in a number of states. Since Roe v. Wade was overturned, nine states have made most abortions illegal, with the majority having already banned or restricted access to abortion pills. Last week the Biden administration, including the Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services, announced that it would work to expand access to the medications across the U.S.
Instagram is apparently even flagging pro-choice content that never mentions abortion pills. “Yesterday I shared the poster for my short documentary ‘Someone You Know’ on Instagram, (a film documenting 3 later abortion stories using animation that I shot in 2020),” wrote Asha Dahya, a pro-choice activist, in a Tuesday tweet noting that Instagram placed a “Graphic & Violent content” warning on her post.
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In a post shared shortly after Dahya’s tweet, Instagram’s official P.R. account wrote, “We’re hearing that people around the world are seeing our ‘sensitivity screens’ on many different types of content when they shouldn’t be. We’re looking into this bug and working on a fix now.” It is unclear if the statement was triggered by Dahya, but Instagram P.R. shared the explanation less than 30 minutes after her tweet. Meta P.R. did not immediately respond to Vanity Fair’s requests for comment.
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