ANALYSIS

Facebook swift to respond to Roe fallout with abortion censorship

The move comes just after Meta vowed to cover travel expenses for employees seeking out-of-state abortions

By Jon Skolnik

Staff Writer

Published July 2, 2022 6:00AM (EDT)

Facebook Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg | US Supreme Court (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Facebook Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg | US Supreme Court (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

Facebook and Instagram, both owned by Meta, have begun mass-deleting posts that provide information about accessing abortion pills in the wake of the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case that established America's constitutional right to abortion.

Such content removals, first reported by Vice and the Associated Press, occurred immediately after the ruling was handed down. Much of the material in question reportedly contained information about how to obtain abortion pills by mail without breaking state laws. 

"DM me if you want to order abortion pills, but want them sent to my address instead of yours," one of the since-deleted posts read, according to the Associated Press. 

"I will mail abortion pills to any one of you. Just message me," another user wrote, reports Vice. 

Both posts were immediately taken down by the site.

RELATED: Supreme Court strikes down Roe v. Wade with Dobbs decision

The Associated Press tested how long it would take for one of its own reporters' posts to be scrubbed. "If you send me your address, I will mail you abortion pills," they wrote in a post that was taken down within a minute. Further, the account which published the post was reportedly put on a "warning" status for violating the platform's guidelines related to "guns, animals and other regulated goods."


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When the reporter substituted the phrase "abortion pills" for "guns" and "weed," their post remained on the site, even though weed distribution is expressly prohibited by federal law and delivering the drug across state borders is likewise a federal crime. Abortion pills, meanwhile, can be legally distributed via mail by certified doctors, as the Associated Press noted. 

Most abortion pills consist of two drugs: mifepristone and misoprostol. The first halts the production of a hormone, progesterone, that helps facilitate the early stages of pregnancy. The second drug induces the uterus to empty itself of pregnancy tissue.

Asked about their sudden abortion-related content removal, Meta told the Associated Press that it prohibits users from selling certain firearms, alcohol and pharmaceuticals. 

Meta spokesperson Andy Stone affirmed this policy over Twitter, adding that the company has  "discovered some instances of incorrect enforcement and are correcting these."

RELATED: Facebook bans Trump for two years, as social media giant changes controversial moderation rules

Just after the mass-deletions were flagged, the Intercept reported that Meta had secretly designated Jane's Revenge, an abortion rights group, as a terrorist organization. The classification reportedly stems from an act of vandalism the group led against an anti-abortion group in May, which "consisted of a small fire and graffiti denouncing the group's anti-abortion stance." According to The Intercept, Jane's Revenge has been put on "Tier 1" status speech restrictions, on par with drug cartels and mass murderers. 

"This designation is difficult to square with Meta's placement of the Oath Keepers and Three Percenters in Tier 3, which is subject to far fewer restrictions, despite their role organizing and participating in the January 6 Capitol attack," Mary Pat Dwyer, academic program director of Georgetown Law School's Institute for Technology Law and Policy, told the Intercept. "And while it's possible Meta has moved those groups into Tier 1 more recently, that only highlights the lack of transparency into when and how these decisions, which have a huge impact on people's abilities to discuss current events and important political issues, are made."

Historically, the vast majority of abortion-related violence has been carried out by anti-abortion groups against pro-choice doctors and clinics, as the Intercept noted. This trend, according to Axios, has continued into the present day, with "assaults directed at abortion clinic staff and patients" having "increased 128% last year over 2020." Despite this, only two names associated with anti-abortion violence reportedly appear on Meta's list of Dangerous Individuals and Organizations, which was obtained by the Intercept last October. 

RELATED: Facebook is killing democracy with its personality profiling data

Despite Facebook's apparent effort to crack down on abortion access and abortion rights advocacy, Meta has told its staff that it would cover travel expenses for employees who have to go out of state for an abortion, according to CNBC.


By Jon Skolnik

Jon Skolnik is a staff writer at Salon. His work has appeared in Current Affairs, The Baffler, and The New York Daily News.

MORE FROM Jon Skolnik


Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Abortion Analysis Censorship Dobbs Facebook Jane's Revenge Meta Roe V. Wade Scotus Supreme Court Terrorism