Facebook ban a 'Public Cervix Announcement'

A few weeks ago, I was asked by the Irish Family Planning Association if I, along with thousands of healthcare professionals and sex positivity advocates, would take part in their Pearl of Wisdom campaign to raise awareness of cervical cancer and to promote regular cervical screenings for women and trans men aged 25-60. As someone who has had multiple friends go through cervical cancer and pre-cancer treatments, this is something I feel very passionate about.

I wrote a blog post about the campaign and was the first to post on Twitter and Instagram with my #ShareTheWisdom selfie. I received floods of messages from friends and strangers thanking me for reminding them to book their smear test. So I decided to take it a step further by boosting my post on Facebook. The ad, which featured a photo of me wearing my Pearl of Wisdom pin and linked to my blog post about the campaign, was initially approved - which was great, as my previous ads promoting sexual health items like condoms or bodysafe toys had been rejected.
cervical screening facebook ad
My facebook ad comments


However last night I received a message on my phone that my ad - which I lovingly referred to as my “Public Cervix Announcement” and had been running for 3 days at this stage - had been unapproved. When I tried to appeal the decision made on my own ad, I was repeatedly shown a pop-up window that said my appeal could not be processed at this time.

I was upset, but by no means surprised. Back in October during Breast Cancer Awareness month, the Dublin Well Woman Centre encountered a similar problem with Facebook advertising when they tried to boost a post that showed women how to do a home breast exam. Their boost was also denied and it wasn’t until the problem was brought to the attention of the media that Facebook did anything about it.

Now as some of you may know I run an online sex shop, and as the IFPA invited me as a representative of my business to support their campaign via social media, the boosted post was made on my business’s page. Perhaps this is why they decided to deny my ad, but the post was not about my business. Ads like mine and the Well Woman Centre’s do not violate Facebook’s terms of use. Their advertising guidelines state that adult products and services are prohibited “...except for ads for family planning and contraception,” and the stuff they have allowed over the years like fat-shaming diet supplements and psychics, are absolutely appalling.

The most frustrating thing about Facebook allowing the ad to run for several days and then stopping it was the fact I was able to see that spending a few quid meant the post had been seen by over 11,000 people. I was pretty chuffed with this as a normal post on my page is only seen by 25-100 people, something that has been especially noticeable since Facebook changed their algorithms so business pages are hardly ever seen unless you can pay for ads.

While I cannot claim to know how their approval system works, it would seem that their algorithm ok’d it as there was nothing offensive in the ad, and a few days later, someone manually switched it off. As much as I would love to see Facebook make meaningful changes to their ad approval system, I have lost hope that they will. However I haven’t lost hope in people and their ability to promote change, especially here in Ireland.

Cancer has been a recurring theme in my life, and will sadly touch the lives of pretty much everyone at some point, whether it happens to you or a loved one. If you, like me, are a proud cervix owner between the ages of 25-60, please check if you’re due for a screening at CervicalCheck.ie and book one for free with your GP if you are. And of course be sure to encourage other cervix owners in your life to do the same! Thank you!