Access Denied! Moms Blocked from Information and Support on Facebook

Support groups on Facebook should be a safe-haven for mothers to get support and advice—not a place to fear deletions.

©Ann Althouse

©Ann Althouse

This is a follow-up piece to my Breastfeeding Basics article, Breastfeeding Professionals Silenced by Facebook Censorship.”

I’m a member of a lot of breastfeeding support groups on Facebook.  As breastfeeding counselor and advocate, I like to know what mothers are dealing with on a regular basis.

Moms come to these groups for support and to get answers to many questions.  Many of these Facebook groups are closed or secret in order to protect the privacy of the members.  Because many feel these groups are safe places, they post things they wouldn’t be comfortable sharing on their personal Facebook pages.  In these groups, you’ll find things like pictures of mystery rashes, questions about the color of an infant’s stool, birth photography, questions about breasts, and breastfeeding images.  Moms post these things because they want advice from their peers—other moms who have experienced similar issues.

Sadly, moms are being denied access to support and advice.  Even though these groups may seem like safe places to ask private questions and post pictures, mothers are finding their posts being reported.

A mother's post in a closed breastfeeding support group was reported.

“A mother’s post in a closed breastfeeding support group was reported.

This past week, a mother posted an image of her breast in one of her breastfeeding groups because she had developed a rash and she wondered what it could be.  Other mothers informed her that it looked like thrush and they all shared various remedies that would help clear it up.  Shortly after she posted the picture, she received a notice that “someone reported [the] photo for containing nudity or pornography.”  She ultimately decided to remove the photo before Facebook could review it in order to protect her account from any possible ramifications from Facebook.

Emma Kwasnica, an admin of the large group INFORMED CHOICE : BIRTH AND BEYOND / HM4HB Global Network, had photos deleted and was banned from Facebook for 7 days in August of 2013 for sharing her homebirth images in the closed educational group.  The group’s goal is to educate parents on birth and other various parenting topics and her pictures gave parents an opportunity to see a normal, natural birth—something that is rare to see in today’s culture of medicalized birth.

Notably, Facebook deletions are not limited to photos.  Entire breastfeeding support groups have disappeared off the social media site, leaving mothers unable to find support and answers to questions.

Large breastfeeding support group deleted from Facebook.  (via Paa.la)

Large breastfeeding support group deleted from Facebook. (via Paa.la)

In October of 2013, the group Breastfeeding Support, with over 5,ooo members, was deleted.  Many of the admins were also locked out of their personal accounts.

Just yesterday, another large support group with almost 13,000 members was deleted.  The admins of the Tongue Tie Babies Support Group woke up to a notice that their group violated Facebook’s Terms of Use, but with no explanation as to what exactly the violation was.  The group was ultimately restored, with Facebook representatives calling the deletion a “mistake.”  During the time the group was gone, the group’s members were left wondering where they could go for support and information.

These support groups give mothers 24/7 access to answers.  It’s quicker than calling the doctor office or after hours phone service and waiting for someone to call back.  We live in a culture of instant gratification.  Instant support and answers to common concerns mothers have can help reduce their stress and calm them down.  

Facebook’s current reporting system is flawed and it’s harming the parents.  Cyberbullies and trolls are infiltrating the “safe-havens” of the support groups and they are using the reporting feature to get photos, posts, and even the groups taken down.  Facebook rewards those bullies while punishing those seeking support.  Parents who ask question and post photos are fearful their pictures will be reported and access will be lost to their personal accounts.  Group admins are at the mercy of Facebook and are not given any tools to help deal with the bullies—and it is almost impossible to contact anyone at Facebook to help resolve any issues.

Posted in facebook, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

New Jersey’s Proposed Anti-Milksharing Campaign—the Next Attack on Parental Informed Choice?

A proposed bill (NJ A3702) in New Jersey has its sights on the informal milksharing community.  This bill:

“Establishes public awareness campaign advising pregnant women, new parents, and women who are breast feeding about dangers of casual milk sharing.”

WTF

What?!

After I read this bill, I immediately flashed back to Milwaukee’s infamous anti-bedsharing campaign from 2011.  Will New Jersey begin posting ads similar to these about milksharing?

The above ads were Milwaukee’s attempt to reduce their infant mortality rate.  However, campaigns like these go against what is biologically normal and ignore research and evidence.  Bedsharing can be done safely, but the Milwaukee Health Department chose to just create a blanket campaign to admonish the practice all together.

This New Jersey milksharing bill is essentially another scaremongering tactic.  Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt, who sponsored this bill, says this is about healthy babies, but the only thing a bill like this will do is push parents and caregivers away from seeking out donor milk, which has been shown time and time again to be beneficial for children.  She even failed to consult with the milksharing community and researchers.

New Jersey plans to discuss only the dangers of milksharing while providing no other information to parents and caregivers.  In Dr. Karleen D. Gribble’s 2012 paper, “Milk sharing and formula feeding: Infant feeding risks in comparative perspective?”,  she discusses issues with campaigns like this:

“There are risks associated with all forms of infant feeding, including breastfeeding and the use of manufactured infant formulas. However, health authorities do not warn against using formula or breastfeeding; they provide guidance on how to manage risk.”

So, why is New Jersey focusing only on informal milksharing risks?  Despite evidence pointing to how beneficial breastmilk is, their state officials are ignoring the research and outright trying to condemn the practice of milksharing based mostly on cultural beliefs that sharing breastmilk is dangerous and must be controlled.  

This proposed campaign is patronizing to parents.  It assumes that caregivers are not capable of ensuring the safety of their children.  Humans have practiced milksharing in various forms (like wetnursing) for thousands of years and this practice is not stopping anytime soon.  Parents do not seek out donor breastmilk indiscriminately.  The milksharing community operates on the basis of informed choice where parents are educated on all risks and benefits of using donor milk.  The communities advise that donors and recipients operate under full disclosure.  Donors and recipients routinely screen each other to ensure they are a good match.  This includes getting medical histories, communication about lifestyle and habits, and disclosing any medication the donor may be using.  Donors also want to learn about the recipient family and what their needs are.  Oftentimes, these connections are very strong and develop into long lasting friendships.

Gribble offers an excellent conclusion in her paper from 2011, “Milk sharing: from private practice to public pursuit” that helps summarize the concerns with bill NJ A3702:

“Mothers are leading in this initiative. The public health community has a choice: stay on the side-lines or move to engage, to assist those who are involved in milk sharing to make it as safe as possible. We appeal for engagement in the belief that milk sharing will happen regardless of denunciations; that its level of risk is manageable; and that there are greater intractable risks for babies who do not receive breast milk. We believe that if undertaken, managed and evaluated appropriately, this made-by-mothers model shows considerable potential for expanding the world’s supply of human milk and improving the health of children.”

New Jersey Assemblywoman Lampitt, please reevaluate the objectives in this bill.  Do you truly believe that the scare tactics outlined will keep babies safe?  Can you see that this would create a barrier that ultimately keeps children from receiving species specific food that is optimal for their development?  Please do not let this proposed campaign be the next Milwaukee anti-cosleeping crusade.

1475915_637640712948641_971439893_n

Want to help the New Jersey milksharing community say “no” to this bill?  Sign the petition here:

Support NJ milksharing families: Stop Bill A3702

Stay up to date by following along on Facebook:

Friends of New Jersey Milksharing

To better understand how milksharing is done safely, please check out the two biggest milksharing communities:

Human Milk for Human Babies (HM4HB) FAQ section:

http://hm4hb.net/faq/

and

Eats on Feets: Four Pillars of Safe Breast Milk Sharing:

http://eatsonfeets.org/#fourPillars

Posted in breastfeeding, breastmilk, lactivist, law, milksharing, pumping, storage and handling, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Are you keeping track? Yup, banned from Facebook again!

CENSORED FOR FACEBOOK

I’m beginning to just roll my eyes now when I get this notice.

We've removed something your page posted.

We’ve removed something your page posted.

banned for 24 hours

banned for 24 hours

This newest ban is a result of me posting an article about Facebook removing birth and breastfeeding photos and how the current system rewards cyber bullies and trolls, causing some bloggers to leave the site completely.  After my last ban over another link I posted, which contained a picture of a bare lactating breast being manually expressed in a story about breastmilk donations, I have been trying to be careful about what thumbnails show up when I post links.  It is possible that this is how the link was posted, though:

nipple thumbnail for link

nipple thumbnail for link

But I’m not entirely convinced this truly violates Facebook’s guidelines as much as my other link did….those could be male nipples, which seems to be acceptable on Facebook, unless, of course, you make a mosaic out of multiple pictures of your own male nipples.

So, lets review where I’m currently at with Facebook over the last two weeks:

1.  I get banned for 3 days for sharing a link with an thumbnail deemed “nudity/pornography”.

2.  I get an account deleted (read the egg post linked below).

3.  I get banned for 7 days over a picture of an egg.

4.  I get banned for 24 hours another link with a thumbnail that possibly violated the nudity guidelines.

In addition to those bans/deletions, I have had multiple things reported to Facebook as nudity and pornography.  Luckily, whoever at Facebook that reviewed these reports, deemed them ok to remain.

Someone reported acorns and lemons as nudity/pornography

Someone reported acorns and lemons as nudity/pornography

Also, having more than one admin on a Facebook page no longer protects the page from being down, either.  Facebook used to sanction only the one admin who posted items that violated the rules, but now ALL admins receive notifications and sanctions.  This is giving more power to cyber bullies and trolls and punishing the victims.

To keep connected to me, feel free to continue to follow this blog, follow me on Twitter, and/or find me on Google + .  I will continue to chug along on Facebook, but if you notice the page is eerily quiet, take a peek at these places to see if I’ve been booted off.

Want to know how to help change things?  “Like” the page FB vs Breastfeeding, where we will continue to report on Facebook’s issues with breastfeeding.

 

 

Posted in breastfeeding, breastmilk, facebook, feminism, lactivist | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Banned from Facebook: Did you know a picture of an egg is considered nudity/pornography?

Only three days after my last suspension from Facebook, I have gotten in trouble with them again.

I discovered that my backup account I created to continue to run Unlatched during my ban last week had been disabled.  This is the notice I received:

Your account has been disabled.

Your account has been disabled.

Hmm…I first thought it was because of the three photos they had pictured: an egg, my Unlatched profile pic, and a screen shot from my ban last week.  I tried appealing the process, which consisted of Facebook providing me with photos of friends and then I had to match the photos with a person’s name.  That was extremely hard, considering most photos did not contain the person in question!  It took me three tries to make it through.  But what was the point, because as soon as I was finished, I got this notice:

Permanently Disabled.

Permanently Disabled.

Cue the game show losing sound.

Oh well.  I made myself feel better by figuring it was because my backup account itself was what caused it to get deleted, since you aren’t supposed to have multiple personal accounts.  Fine.  I was a bad girl who broke the rules.  *Tsk tsk*

I went back to my main profile after this and discovered I had pictures reported.  *cue eye roll*

Your photos were reported for containing nudity or pornography.

Your photos were reported for containing nudity or pornography.

I definitely gave feedback.  One was a breastfeeding photo that in no way violated any rules, was previously reported on another page, and Facebook recanted and said it was removed by mistake, and the second photo was a picture of a chicken egg.

Well, no luck with that.

the offensive egg

the offensive egg

Blocked from posting for 7 days.

Blocked from posting for 7 days.

Are you laughing?  Because I am.  Banned for SEVEN DAYS OVER A CHICKEN EGG.  I had used that photo to illustrate that breasts and nipples can be found in nature and that they are not offensive in any way.

So now are they just deleting photos that may look like a nipple?  I know this happened in the past when Facebook removed a photo of a women in a bathtub because her elbows looked like nipples.

What about male nipples?  Are those ok?

Are male nipples ok?

Are male nipples ok?

I’m not even sure if those are acceptable, because in 2009, an artist named Phil Hansen posted a mosaic of his face made out of his male nipples on Facebook and it was deleted after two days.

Facebook, you have clearly lost control of your reporting system.

To read more about Facebook’s issues with nipples, breastfeeding, and birth photos, visit Jodine’s World here.

Want to share nipple photos in protest?  Join us on the Jesusa Ricoy-Olariaga Facebook page.

UPDATE:

#NipplesInNature

#NipplesInNature

Join me on Twitter (@the_unlatched) where I will share beautiful nipples in nature photos to show how nipples are not nudity or pornography.  Nipples are natural and not obscene.  Use the hashtag #NipplesInNature to share your own pictures!

UPDATE 8/28/2013:

Some of my friends have changed their profile pic to the egg in solidarity with me. Unfortunately, Facebook continues to delete this photo as nudity/pornography.

image

Posted in breastfeeding, facebook, feminism | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

Breastfeeding Advocates – You Can Be Banned on Facebook for Sharing Links

I woke up this morning to see that I’ve been banned by Facebook for 3 days.

Screenshot of removal of link

Screenshot of removal of link

Temporarily Blocked From Posting for 3 days

Temporarily Blocked From Posting for 3 days

They didn’t ban me for posting a breastfeeding photo.  They banned me for sharing a LINK!

I had shared a lovely story about a premature infant’s life being saved by breastmilk after developing necrotising enterocolitis (NEC).  I used HootSuite to post the story and didn’t think twice about what thumbnail was going to pop up.  Sometimes, you have no choice over what photo is previewed.  But, anyways, it was just an awesome story that I wanted to share.  This is how it popped up on my page:

link with thumbnail

link with thumbnail

I know, the horror…a bare lactating breast!  In a breastfeeding news story, none-the-less!  How dare they post that image!  

There are no Facebook guidelines, that I can find, that discuss image rules for thumbnail photos used in link previews.  Most of the time, you cannot control what image shows up in the preview, especially if you share directly from the source using share buttons like these:

share buttons

Facebook share buttons

This isn’t the first time something like this has happened.  This Milk Matters shared a link to a blog article on a breastfeeding image removal and the offending thumbnail image in the link preview resulted in their admins being sanctioned.  I also remember hearing about Facebook users getting “in trouble” for sharing links to a recent news story about New York City’s topless law.  The picture in that thumbnail was of a topless woman walking proudly through the city street

But guess what!  This removal and ban didn’t just affect one admin account on Unlatched…it affected ALL of them.  I have one account that is banned for 30 days!

All admin accounts affected by removal and ban

All admin accounts affected by removal and ban

Breastfeeding advocates and professionals rely on Facebook to network and to educate the public on breastfeeding issues and information.  Unfortunately, Facebook is hindering us in our work.  We have to censor breastfeeding images and now we have to worry about sharing links to information outside of Facebook.

So what do we do?  Turn to Twitter and/or Google +?  Actually, the offending link that got me banned on Facebook is still up on my Google + page

"Breast Milk saves 'miracle baby'" article still on Google +

“Breast Milk saves ‘miracle baby'” article still on Google +

Posted in breastfeeding, breastmilk, facebook, feminism, lactation, lactivist | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

History of American Airlines Breastfeeding Policy and Uncomfortable Situations

American Airlines has a history of harassment towards breastfeeding mothers

American Airlines has a history of harassment towards breastfeeding mothers

Information first shared on my Facebook page.

Apparently, American Airlines has had a number of breastfeeding incidents over the years and there are multiple references to and versions of their breastfeeding “policy” that ensures “other passengers are not subjected to an uncomfortable situation.

In 2006, on mothering.com, a mom wrote to American Airlines ahead of her flight to see what their breastfeeding policy was. The representative she spoke to on the phone threw around the word “discreet” and in another response she received by mail, she was told that flight attendants were to make sure other customers weren’t “uncomfortable” while she was breastfeeding.

http://www.mothering.com/community/t/575402/airlines-policy-on-bf-long

In this post from 2008 from PhD in Parenting, entitled: “Cover up! Airline Breastfeeding Policies,” it says:

“Their procedures advise the crew to ensure that mothers breastfeeding their children have the privacy they need and that other customers are not subjected to an uncomfortable situation. Their inflight personnel are trained to handle such situations with professionalism and discretion.”

http://www.phdinparenting.com/blog/2008/8/25/cover-up-airline-breastfeeding-policies.html

In 2011, again from mothering.com, a mother was asked by a male flight attendant to cover up. When she wrote an email complaint, the response she received was another printed letter that apologized for the rudeness of the attendant, but acknowledged that breastfeeding mothers must cover (it actually sounds just like the other letter mothers have received).

http://www.mothering.com/community/t/1300053/american-airlines-fa-ashed-me-to-cover-myself

From 2012, I found this story: “Time for airlines to take a stand on breast-feeding passengers”

“I asked American Airlines about the incident, and a representative told me that the airline regrets what happened. “Our in-flight procedures advise our crew to ensure that breast-feeding mothers have the privacy they need and that other customers are not subjected to an uncomfortable situation,” a spokeswoman said. “Our in-flight personnel are trained to handle such situations with professionalism and discretion.”

American apologized and sent the passenger a $100 flight voucher.”

http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-08-28/travel/sns-201208280000–tms–traveltrctntt-b20120828-20120828_1_flight-attendant-american-airlines-commercial-flight

August 6, 2013, on a breastfeeding Facebook page, a mom talked about her breastfeeding incident she had with American Airlines in January 2013. She states that a blanket was thrown at her to use and it hit her baby in the head. After complaining, she received a letter just like the one the mom in the most recent situation received (see below).

In the spring of 2013, another mom was humiliated when trying to pump on an American Airlines flight. An airline representative said:

“Our procedures advise our crews to ensure that mothers who are breastfeeding or using breast pumps have the privacy they need,” said American Airlines spokesperson Andrea Huguely.”

She was also offered an $100 voucher for her complaint.

http://www.nbcnews.com/travel/breast-pumping-mom-felt-humiliated-flight-attendant-6C9690341

The most recent situation occurred on July 21, 2013.  A mother was told that she “needed to put a blanket over [her] son ‘because there are kids on this flight.'”  Her husband refused.  They were ignored the rest of the flight and beverages were never offered to them.

After filing a complaint, she received the following letter:

Letter from American Airlines to breastfeeding mother after July 2013 incident

Letter from American Airlines to breastfeeding mother after July 2013 incident

This latest incident has gone viral on social media and mothers have turned to American Airlines’s Facebook page.  On August 5, AA began posting this response to people’s complaints:

American Airlines's response to complaints August 5, 2013

American Airlines’s response to complaints August 5, 2013

Again with the “uncomfortable situation” comment…

Then, late that night, word came that this mother was offered $100 for her complaint and to keep her from talking about this incident!

American Airlines offers harassed breastfeeding mother $100 to keep quiet

American Airlines offers harassed breastfeeding mother $100 to keep quiet

American Airlines’s comment still angered mothers who continued posting on AA’s Facebook page.  American Airlines was ignoring the comments, while still responding to other general customer comments, until the afternoon of August 6th, 2013, when they responded to multiple complaints with this:

American Airline tries to "clear up a misunderstanding" on August 6, 2013

American Airline tries to “clear up a misunderstanding” on August 6, 2013

And that’s where we are, at the moment!  I will continue to update this situation as it unfolds.

So, American Airlines… WTF?! This is inexcusable. Breastfeeding and pumping mothers should NEVER be harassed. You should be marketing yourself as a family friendly airline and take measures to ensure that these situations never happen again. Your employees need to be trained better, too. We better be hearing a better apology soon or else you risk losing a lot of customers.

Posted in breastfeeding in public, lactation, lactivist, law, nursing in public, pumping | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Does Medela have something going on with American Airlines?

plane-pump

Today a story came out about a mom being harassed for attempting to pump on an American Airline’s plane, but that’s not what I’m upset about.  I’m upset about this:

“An American official…said the airline does indeed allow breastfeeding moms to plug in Medela-brand pumps during flights.

…[she] should have been allowed to plug her Medela pump into the outlet by her seat. A different brand of pump would have required prior approval…”

I checked the American Airline’s website to see what the policy was on breast pumps, but could not find anything listed, so I called them.  I was on hold for several minutes before I was finally told that Medela pumps were the only pump allowed to be plugged in to their power ports on the airplane.  No one could explain why.  I then sent them an email asking for further clarification.

Here is the information on the American Airline power ports:

http://www.aa.com/i18n/urls/entertainmentOnDemand.jsp?anchorLocation=DirectURL&title=powerports#ip

Do pumps have different power requirements?

Until I get an email from them, why do you think that they only allow Medela breast pumps?

Posted in breastfeeding, breastfeeding in public, lactation, lactivist, nursing in public, pumping, storage and handling | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments