Why is Facebook blocking our educational content?

by Erica Avey, Former Writer at Clue
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There’s a huge knowledge gap when it comes to menstrual health and fertility, and it’s our mission at Clue to help close that gap. That's why we post a lot about menstrual, sexual and mental health. But recently, content and ad blocks on Facebook have been making it hard for us to spread helpful information to the people who might need it.

While we’re used to encountering social stigma around periods (in fact, we did a whole study on it), more recently and more frequently, we’ve been dealing with censorship that keeps our content from reaching a wide audience—and helping people make the best choices for their lives. Our Facebook ads promoting educational content around the anatomy and reproductive biology are often denied. Our newsletter has also hit spam filters for containing words like “sex” and “sexuality.”

Recently, we published a few articles on different types of breasts, vulvas and penises. Guess which one got approved by Facebook?

facebook-blocking-our-educational-content-breasts@2x facebook-blocking-our-educational-content-vulvas@2x facebook-blocking-our-educational-content-penis

When we asked our Facebook rep why the vulva and breast illustrations were blocked, while penises were approved, he fairly pointed out that they all should have been denied and their policy is quite strict on displaying genitals. In this case, he said he doesn’t understand why penises weren’t detected.

(Side note: Aren’t vulvas a bit more abstract or unrecognizable than dicks? Did the kid next to you in 6th grade math draw a dick or a vulva on your binder as a joke? Phallic imagery and tags are everywhere, so it’s strange this wasn’t flagged.)

The thing is, our content gets blocked all the time, even when it doesn’t contain nude illustrations. Here are a few other boosts that were denied:

facebook-blocking-our-educational-content-underwear@2x facebook-blocking-our-educational-content-birth@2x facebook-blocking-our-educational-content-puberty@2x

And while we don’t think Facebook has bad intentions and these may represent a string of one-off errors, it does highlight a larger issue—one we see every day—that reproductive and menstrual health are not treated with equal weight as other aspects of our health.

Women (and people with cycles) have been excluded from scientific research until recently because the menstrual cycle creates an extra variable. This lack of knowledge and understanding has had serious impacts on both global health and economics.

Many reproductive diseases go undiagnosed for far too long. Pain is minimized and shrugged off by doctors. And too few people understand what ranges are “normal” or not for their cycles.

The cycle shouldn’t be seen as an additional complication of health, but rather as an additional insight. It’s technically a vital sign.

People with a cycle need to know how to connect with their body and the knowledge it can provide (with or without a smartphone). And this is why people need access to information to better understand their health. When you think of all the companies marketing products that arguably have a negative impact on people’s health (sugary soda, anyone?), it’s frustrating that educational material like ours can’t even get in front of those who need it most.

Do you work in healthcare technology, or even better, in reproductive or sexual health? Are you facing these same problems? We’d love to hear your stories and how you’re getting around content blocking and censorship.

An illustration of a microscope

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