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.

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2 Responses to Access Denied! Moms Blocked from Information and Support on Facebook

  1. Alison says:

    As one of the admins for the Breastfeeding Support Group, I agree wholeheartedly that this needs to be addressed. That group was around for over 5 years and helped countless women. I personally received about a dozen personal PMs thanking me for my help as it allowed them to work through their struggles; I know others have had the same.

    Being a mother is incredibly rewarding, but also incredibly challenging which is why these support groups are so very crucial. We no longer have a real-life village to help raise our children, so we have created a virtual one, via social media sites; with Facebook topping the list.

    We are not harming anyone, we are helping many. Why are we being targeted, harassed and removed?

    Alison Kennedy

  2. ZK says:

    I agree wholeheartedly about these support groups being extremely useful to mothers! If it wasnt for a support group, I probably wouldnt have succeeded in my bf-g journey ( 20 months and counting!). It was really an eye opener that Bf-g is not as easy as the media portrays it to be, and that you have to work at it- something that the hospitals conveniently fail to inform mothers while suggesting formula because the poor baby seems hungry. No offense to mothers who choose formula but I feel that new mothers should be given a fighting chance. And these support groups are the best way to level the playing field. Any way we could start a petition? :)

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