Oversight Board Announces “United States Posts Discussing Abortion” Cases

Today, the Board is announcing new cases for consideration. As part of this, we are inviting people and organizations to submit public comments.

Case Selection

As we cannot hear every appeal, the Board prioritizes cases that have the potential to affect lots of users around the world, are of critical importance to public discourse or raise important questions about Meta's policies.

The cases that we are announcing today are:

United States posts discussing abortion

2023-011-IG-UA, 2023-012-FB-UA, 2023-013-FB-UA

User appeals to restore content to Facebook and Instagram

Submit public comments here.

These cases concern three content decisions made by Meta, two on Facebook and one on Instagram, which the Oversight Board intends to address together. For each case, the Board will decide whether the content should be allowed on Facebook or Instagram. The three pieces of content, all relating to abortion, were posted in March 2023 by different users in the United States. Meta removed the three posts for violating its Violence and Incitement policy, but later determined all were removed in error.

In the first case, a Facebook user posted an image with a caption in a public group which describes itself as supporting traditional values and the “sanctity of human life” while opposing, among other things, the “liberal left.” The image shows outstretched hands with a text overlay titled “Pro-Abortion Logic.” It continues, "We don’t want you to be poor, starved or unwanted. So we’ll just kill you instead.” The caption states “Psychopaths...”

In the second and third cases, users posted news articles reporting on a proposed bill in South Carolina that would apply state homicide laws to abortion, making people who get abortions eligible for the death penalty.

In the second case, an Instagram user posted an image with a caption. The image shows another Instagram post with an image of a news article headline stating, “21 South Carolina GOP Lawmakers Propose Death Penalty for Women Who Have Abortions.” The caption references being so pro-life “we’ll kill you dead if you get an abortion.”

In the third case, a Facebook user posted a link to an article titled “South Carolina GOP lawmakers propose death penalty for women who have abortions.” The caption asks for clarity on whether the lawmakers’ position is that “it’s wrong to kill so we are going to kill you.”

The enforcement processes for these cases were similar. In all three cases, a hostile speech classifier, an automated system to identify potentially violating content, identified the post and sent it for human review. In each case, a human reviewer determined the post violated the Violence and Incitement Community Standard, specifically the provision prohibiting death threats. All three users appealed the removal decisions.

In the first and second case, the case received one additional human review that upheld the removal for violating the Violence and Incitement policy. In the third case, on appeal the human reviewer found the content was non-violating, which led to the post being reviewed for a third time. This reviewer, however, found the content violated the prohibition on death threats and Meta therefore upheld its initial decision to remove the content.

The three users then appealed the cases to the Board. As a result of the Board selecting these cases, Meta determined that its previous decisions to remove the three pieces of content were in error and restored the posts. Meta stated that, while the policy prohibits threats that could lead to death, when viewed holistically, none of the pieces of content included a threat.

The Board selected these cases to assess whether Meta’s policies or its enforcement practices may be limiting discussion about abortion. They fall within the Board’s strategic priority of gender.

The Board would appreciate public comments that address:

  • Meta's moderation of content on Facebook on Instagram related to abortion.
  • How Meta’s Violence and Incitement policy should treat content that uses the word “kill” while discussing abortion and its legality.
  • How Meta’s enforcement practices may impact current political discussions about abortion in the United States and other contexts.

In its decisions, the Board can issue policy recommendations to Meta. While recommendations are not binding, Meta must respond to them within 60 days. As such, the Board welcomes public comments proposing recommendations that are relevant to these cases.

Public Comments

If you or your organization feel that you can contribute valuable perspectives that can help with reaching a decision on the cases announced today, you can submit your contributions using the link above.

For these cases, we will be trialing a public comment period of 21 days, instead of the usual 14 days. This means that the public comment window will close at 23:59 your local time on Thursday 29 June. While we are experimenting with a longer deadline for these cases to increase participation, we would still encourage stakeholders to submit comments as early as possible to maximize their impact on deliberations.

What's Next

Over the next few weeks, Board members will be deliberating these cases. Once they have reached their final decisions, we will post them on the Oversight Board website.

To receive updates when the Board announces new cases or publishes decisions, sign up here.

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