By Willard Foxton, Telegraph
Many British women were startled when they woke up on New Year's Day to find their Facebook profiles had started advertising abortion providers to them. The ad in question, from American Abortion advisory website abortion.com
, simply said: "Find An Abortion Provider Near You", as well as a US Freephone number. A click led to a mostly US-focused website, which lists a huge number of abortion providers throughout the US and just one provider in the UK, "Abortion support Network".
Some women targeted by the ad reacted with humour – one quipped to me: "Well, at least Facebook is also offering me wedding dresses at the same time, so it's giving me options." However, many who received the ad started to second-guess their lifestyle choices. What were they doing that made Facebook think they were in the market for a termination? Was it their lifestyle? Was something in their pictures or their statuses that flipped a switch that made an algorithm assume they were pregnant?
[...] It strikes me this is a seriously mistargeted ad. My guess is it's a fairly crass social media intern in the US cynically assuming that a good time for the UK launch of their website is around New Year, and sending out a blanket barrage targeted at women under 30. Indeed, the targeting tells us more about the perceptions and prejudices of the advertiser than about the demographic they are going for. It's not cheap for them, either – a little research suggest an advertiser can pay as much as £3 per click for the search term "abortion" in the UK. If I were Facebook, I think I'd tighten up the rules around who sensitive adverts like this can target.
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