July 4 is a day most Americans celebrate, but a group of Tāmaki Makaurau protested the end of the constitutional right to abortion outside the US Consulate General. Video / NZ Herald
Following controversy over the removal of abortion pill posts from Facebook and Instagram, parent company Meta has acknowledged ‘incorrect enforcement’ in some cases – and InternetNZ chief says episode illustrates systemic issues with social networks.
media to contact.
Following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v Wade on June 24, a number of states instituted outright abortion bans.
According to an AP report, memes and status updates explaining how women living in those states could legally get abortion pills in the mail have exploded on social platforms. Social media research firm Zignal intelligence counted some 250,000 mentions within three days of the decision. Some have offered to send the prescriptions to women living in states that now ban the procedure.
Almost immediately, Facebook and Instagram began deleting posts, citing violations of their content guidelines.
Controversy was fueled when AP revealed what appeared to be inconsistent and incorrect application of Meta’s rules.
On June 27, an AP reporter posted a message on Facebook that included the line “If you send me your address, I’ll send you abortion pills.”
The post was deleted within a minute, AP said.
The Facebook account was immediately placed on a “warning” for the post, which Facebook said violated its standards on “guns, animals and other regulated property”.
Yet when the AP reporter made the exact same message but replaced the words “abortion pills” with “a gun”, the message remained intact. A message containing the exact same offer to send “weed” was also left and was not considered a violation, the news agency said.
Marijuana is illegal under federal law and it is illegal to mail it.
However, abortion pills can legally be obtained by mail after consulting online with certified and trained prescribers.
The Herald asked Meta for comment and was referred to a statement from Facebook communications director Andy Stone, which read:
“Content that attempts to buy, sell, trade, give, request, or give away pharmaceuticals is not permitted.
“Content that discusses the affordability and accessibility of prescription drugs is permitted.
“We have discovered instances of incorrect application and are correcting them.”
Algorithms considered a key part of the problem
Today, InternetNZ acting chief executive Andrew Cushen told the Herald: “Questions like this demonstrate that social media has a set of rules in itself, rather than rules designed with communities.”
Cushen added, “Platforms like Facebook are designed for profit, not for what’s best for our communities or the free exchange of information. That’s why we need to look for new solutions to limit the damage. caused by the influence of social media”.
At the heart of the problem are the software algorithms of social media platforms – acting on rules set by human moderators – that make millions of decisions every minute about what to post, auto-delete or suggest.
“We need to find solutions to the damage caused by algorithms. These algorithms lead people to dark places and to radicalization,” Cushen said.
Many words, little action
During her May 27 commencement address to students at Harvard – the birthplace of Facebook – Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, “There is a pressing and urgent need for the development and deployment of responsible algorithms…Let’s get started through transparency in how algorithmic processes work and the results they deliver. But let’s end with a shared approach to responsible algorithms – because the time has come.”
Cushen Strong agreed with this description of the problem and with what should be done.
But he told the Herald: ‘What was missing was the commitment to government action from our Prime Minister.
hat in the ring
Previously, Cushen had criticized the draft of a new internet safety code, the general provisions of which were drawn up by Netsafe (the lead agency for the Harmful Digital Communications Act) and major social media companies. Although there were provisions for bids on the project, the communities affected by it should have had a say from the outset, he said.
He might have the opportunity to push his point, and the government’s efforts – or lack thereof – to get social media platforms to say more about their almighty algorithms.
He was named interim director of InternetNZ – which administers the .nz domain – after longtime CEO and Christchurch Call chairman Jordan Carter announced his resignation in March.
This morning, Cushen told the Herald that he would throw his hat in the ring to become InternetNZ’s permanent chief executive. The association’s board of directors should make its decision in a few weeks.