Meta recently published changes to its sexual health advertising policies, newly stating that “advertisers can run ads that promote sexual health, wellness and reproductive products and services”. This revision follows Center for Intimacy Justice (CIJ)’s recent investigative report and advocacy to change Meta’s systemic rejections of women’s health advertisements.
The policy has added examples to its guidelines for ads that are allowed, including “products addressing the effects of menopause,” “pain relief during sex,” and “sex education,” areas CIJ’s report had highlighted as having been rejected.
Meta’s revised company policy comes on the heels of Center for Intimacy Justice’s report released in January 2022 that exposed sweeping rejections of ads from 60 health businesses and nonprofits serving women and people of diverse genders that CIJ studied. Meta had most commonly classified these services (in menopause, pelvic pain, and other areas) as “Adult Products”. At the same time Meta allowed erectile dysfunction and men’s health ads that talked about male pleasure.
Meta’s policy also specifies that ads for “birth control products, including condoms,” “family planning,” and “reproductive health products or services” are allowed, as are ads for “erectile dysfunction products” and “prevention of premature ejaculation.” The ads must be targeted at people 18 years or older. Additionally, Meta revised another ad policy, Adult Nudity, in April, 2022 and on September 29, 2022 to allow certain ads in medical or health contexts. Previously, CIJ had noted that ads for lactation education (including with medical simulators) were blocked.
“The next question,” states Jackie Rotman, founder of Center for Intimacy Justice and the investigator for CIJ’s January 2022 report on Meta’s censorship of health for women and people of diverse genders, “is whether Meta is actually enforcing this policy change, or if the algorithms still reject them.” CIJ will continue to monitor this question and advocate for equitable practices. While work remains, “the fact that Meta has changed its stated policy – a global policy that reaches people in every country Meta has users in – is exciting,” says Rotman.
The newly revised policy is not without exclusion, however. In it, Meta continues to state that content or products that focus on sexual pleasure are not allowed – despite, in practice, Meta having allowed ads that emphasize male pleasure. CIJ will share information on how devices with evidence-based sexual health benefits for female-bodied people serve health needs that Meta’s newly written guidelines allow ads for.
Hundreds more organizations and businesses impacted have come forward since the release of the report and have collaborated with Center for Intimacy Justice to advocate for changes. Center for Intimacy Justice’s research and strategic media advocacy has been largely funded by The Case for Her, a philanthropic investment portfolio in Sweden led by Wendy Anderson and Cristina Ljungberg. RNW Media, a Netherlands-based international non-governmental organization, also provided financial support, among others.
Over the next several weeks, Center for Intimacy Justice will survey its network of businesses and nonprofits to understand whether Meta’s algorithmic processes, appeals practices, and moderator training seem to be consistent with Meta’s new stated policy or if further action is needed for Meta to enforce a corporate policy that will more equitably impact women and people of diverse genders.
“This is a story of women, nonbinary people, and allies coming together around the world to solve a fixable problem that impacts billions of people, through technology and the voices that are enabled to be shared,” Rotman says. “Change isn’t inevitable, but it is possible – with strategy and the will, commitment, and collaboration of multiple people working together.”
Beyond Meta, Center for Intimacy Justice is currently investigating the censorship and content moderation of sexual and reproductive health at TikTok, Amazon and other technology platforms, and invites businesses and content creators to reach out.