Home Politics Antiabortion Disinformation Ads Ran Rampant on Facebook and Instagram

Antiabortion Disinformation Ads Ran Rampant on Facebook and Instagram

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Antiabortion Disinformation Ads Ran Rampant on Facebook and Instagram

Ads containing abortion misinformation are allowed to run on Facebook and Instagram in countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America, while legitimate healthcare providers struggle to get their ads approved, new research shows.

The report, released today by the Center for Countering Digital Hate and MSI Reproductive Choices, an international reproductive health care provider, collected examples from across Vietnam, Nepal, Ghana, Mexico, Kenya and Nigeria. Between 2019 and 2024 alone, researchers in Ghana and Mexico found 187 anti-abortion ads on Meta’s platforms, which were viewed up to 8.8 million times.

Many of these ads were placed by foreign anti-abortion groups. Americans United for Life, a U.S.-based nonprofit whose website claims abortion pills are “unsafe and unjust,” and Tree of Life Ministries, an evangelical church now headquartered in Israel, were both linked to the ads. Researchers also found that ads posted by groups that were not “originated in the country where the ad appeared were viewed up to 4.2 million times.”

In the report, researchers found that some ads linked to websites such as Americans United for Life, whose website describes abortion as a “business” that is “unsafe” for women. The abortion pill is generally considered safe and is less likely cause death than either penicillin or Viagra. Other ads, such as one from the Mexican group Context.co, linked to a Substack dedicated to the topic and suggested that there is a secret global strategy to manipulate the Mexican people and impose abortion on the country.

One advertisement identified in Mexico claimed that abortion services were “funded from abroad… to eliminate the Mexican population.” Another warned that women could suffer “serious complications” from using the abortion pill.

Meta spokesperson Ryan Daniels told WIRED that the company “allows posts and ads that promote health care services, as well as discussion and debate around them,” but that reproductive health content must “follow our rules,” which include only allowing ads for reproductive health that focuses on people over 18 years old.

“This is money that Meta uses to spread lies, conspiracy theories and disinformation,” said Imran Khan, CEO of the Center for Countering Digital Hate.

In these countries, where Meta has often done that partnerships with local telecom companies giving users free access to their platforms, Facebook is an important source of information. Some of these ads also ran on Instagram. “Anyone with a mobile phone has access to information. People use it to find services. When we ask customers: how did you hear about us? many of them will quote Facebook, because they live on Facebook. It’s where they should look for information,” says Whitney Chinogwenya, marketing manager at MSI Reproductive Choices. So when misinformation runs rampant on the platform, the impact can be widespread.

“Good health information saves lives. By actively aiding the spread of misinformation and suppressing good information,” says Khan, “Meta is literally putting lives at risk in those countries and showing that they regard foreign lives as substantially less important to them than American lives.”

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