Facebook, Instagram Ban Conversion Therapy Content

FILE PHOTO: A 3D-printed Facebook logo is seen placed on a keyboard in this illustration
Facebook and Instagram finally moved to ban conversion therapy content when faced with threats of a boycott.
Reuters/ Dado Ruvic

Facebook and Instagram are banning content promoting conversion therapy in response to growing pressure from activists and businesses threatening to boycott the platforms for failing to effectively combat hate speech.

The platforms will no longer recommend conversion therapy-related content and are improving hate speech policies to encompass posts that advertise the debunked practice, which entails attempting to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Many areas have passed laws banning the practice in recent years.

Facebook, which bought Instagram in 2012, was slow to address the hate speech and faced waves of criticism for failing to take action. PinkNews revealed last year that Facebook was raking in advertising revenue from US-based evangelical group Anchored North, which ran ads encouraging users to “cure” their sexual orientation, warning that LGBTQ folks faced “eternity in hell,” and saying they must “acknowledge their wrongdoings to God.” One of those ads drew more than 200,000 views.

The social media giant finally moved on the issue once profits were in jeopardy. The Stop Hate for Profit campaign encouraged businesses to boycott Facebook during the month of July and recruited more than 1,000 companies that vowed to remove their ads from the platforms. 

A coalition of more than 100 non-profit, labor, faith-based, LGBTQ, and advocacy organizations, under the Stop Hate for Profit campaign, also delivered a letter this month to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg to demand that they stop profiting off bigoted advertisers. 

“Facebook’s strategy is to wait us out, but from leading companies to non-profits, from corporations pausing advertising to community advocates organizing on the ground, society has drawn a line in the sand,” the letter stated. “We are united around a common cause: stopping Facebook’s practice of profiting from hate.”

The change in hate speech policies also coincides with a broader, international push to crack down on conversion therapy. Victor Madrigal-Borloz, who serves as the United Nation’s independent expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, encouraged conversion therapy to be banned worldwide. 

“These interventions exclusively target LGBT persons with the specific aim of interfering in their personal integrity and autonomy because their sexual orientation or gender identity do not fall under what is perceived by certain persons as a desirable norm,” Madrigal-Borloz said in a written statement.

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