by Kristina Murkett
Thursday, 30
June 2022
Dark Web
11:30

Is Big Tech exploiting Roe v Wade?

Misinformation on both sides is running rife
by Kristina Murkett
Big Tech platforms like Facebook are profiting from misinformation on their platforms. Credit: Getty

Another week, another mass outbreak of Big Tech “misinformation”. The Supreme Court’s recent ruling to revoke Roe vs Wade has led to a surge in videos advising herbal remedies for home abortions, with some amassing millions of views. Self-proclaimed experts recommend everything from pennyroyal (which can damage liver and kidneys) to ginkgo biloba (which can lead to excessive bleeding), all in the name of #mybodymychoice.

This is just a drop in the ocean. On the pro-choice side, we have celebrities like Halle Berry with hundreds of thousands of followers tweeting that the treatment for ectopic pregnancies is the same as abortion (it isn’t). On the pro-life side, old articles are recirculating claiming that the abortion pill isn’t safe (it is). From conspiracy theories that the Democrats support infanticide to campaigns to make abortion legal up until birth, polarised views dominate, and the silent majority who believe in the right to abortion (up until a certain point), have nothing to cling to in the riptide.

In the modern day culture wars, technology is territory, and websites are continuously being weaponised. Pro-life groups such as Students for Life of America use emotive videos and Facebook ads to promote ‘abortion pill reversal’, even though doctors have warned the process is ‘unproven and unethical.’ One study found that for the most-engaged abortion articles on Facebook, 63% of links with the most interactions came from websites that pushed anti-abortion falsehoods, while another found that for the five top results for ‘abortion pill’ on Google, only one contained information that was scientifically accurate. This is even more concerning given that the highest volume of online searches about abortion are in the states with the most restricted access.

Social media companies allowing these campaigns to spread on their platforms is highly profitable. Facebook, for example, made hundreds of thousands of dollars in advertising abortion pill reversals, which were shown to users — mostly young girls aged between 13 and 18 — over 18 million times. 

There is also much to lose. Companies like Facebook are unlikely to establish a labelling campaign like they did for Covid partly because the debate is too politically charged, but also because it is so legally complicated. For example, if a state made it illegal to assist someone getting an abortion, could companies operating in that state geo-block information supporting an abortion decision? Abortion bans in states like Texas, Ohio and Idaho effectively put a price on personal health information, as data collected by apps, chatbots and hotlines can be used to track or even prosecute pregnant people seeking abortions. 

The danger is real. There are already reports that in Texas, pharmacies are refusing to give prescriptions to treat miscarriages while patients with pregnancy complications are forced to wait until their condition becomes life-threatening. The Supreme Court’s ruling may be dangerous to women, but the online campaigns arising from it are even more so.

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Sue Sims
Sue Sims
1 month ago

I’m afraid that any writer who uses the phrase ‘pregnant people’ has already forfeited any claim to be objective.

Dave Weeden
Dave Weeden
1 month ago
Reply to  Sue Sims

Absolutely. Doesn’t Unherd employ editors?

Carlos Danger
Carlos Danger
1 month ago
Reply to  Sue Sims

I had to laugh at that. Pregnant people indeed.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
1 month ago
Reply to  Sue Sims

Here’s hoping this is just a careless writing mistake from a writer trying to churn out content quickly.

Scott Buchanan
Scott Buchanan
1 month ago
Reply to  Sue Sims

You got in there before me. I thought Unherd normally resisted this kind of gender-bending clap-trap.

Zak Orn
Zak Orn
1 month ago

Is it an actual conspiracy theory or a “conspiracy theory” (wink) that Dems were trying to make abortion legal up until birth?
I agree that tech companies exploit division but I’ve also seen the video from Virginia where the Democrat tried to push through a bill that allowed abortion up until birth. She even goes so far as explicitly confirming the bill would allow abortion during labour. I’m not surprised that angers pro-lifers, I’m not even against abortion (up to a point) but that interview was disgusting.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
1 month ago

As far as I can tell the reversal of Roe v Wade isn’t abolishing abortion, but merely leaving it up to individual states to decide their own abortion laws. If it’s a big enough issue, I’m sure enough people will vote in laws that they favor.
There is a feeling here in the States that the Democrats are blowing this all out of proportion to terrify people into voting for them in the mid-terms.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
1 month ago

Big Tech may be benefiting from controversy but how are they exploiting it?

polidori redux
polidori redux
1 month ago

Abortion is a serious issue. It is a pity that the author of this piece couldn’t treat it seriously.