Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, ending the constitutional right to an abortion in the U.S. Responding to this news and the emerging tech and human rights concerns, Michael Kleinman, Director of Technology and Human Rights at Amnesty International USA, said:
“Social media platforms will now become a new battleground in the war over reproductive rights. The platforms will be forced to make decisions about what information they allow on their platforms, the data they collect, and what data they are willing to share with law enforcement authorities. Unless social media platforms act now to help protect reproductive rights, they risk becoming a tool of those who wish to criminalize abortion.
“The importance of Big Tech in the fight for reproductive rights highlights not just the centrality of these companies to our daily lives, but the sweeping and unaccountable power they hold. This brings into painfully sharp relief the importance of Amnesty’s ongoing work around surveillance capitalism and the right to freedom of expression.
“Amnesty Tech is calling on social media companies to take immediate steps to help protect reproductive rights, including: conducting an immediate audit of data that could indicate whether a user is searching for information about abortion services as well as whether a user is in proximity to an abortion clinic; enabling greater privacy protections on user accounts; clarifying that they will not respond to law enforcement requests for information related to abortion and reproductive rights; and updating their terms of service and community guidelines to clarify that they will not restrict or censor discussion of reproductive rights.
“Amnesty also calls on data brokers to restrict the sale and disclosure of data that could be used to prosecute or otherwise harass those seeking to exercise their reproductive rights.”
As of July 2, 17 states have already banned abortion, or will do so shortly. In the rush to navigate the post-Roe abortion rights landscape, one immediate concern is the extent to which social media platforms will cooperate with law enforcement requests from states that have criminalized abortion, including requests for information about people who seek abortions, those who help them, or those who provide these services.
Social media companies are incentivized to collect more data on their users in order to sell targeted ads, including sensitive data related to people’s reproductive rights. Facebook is already collecting data about people who visit the websites of crisis pregnancy centers. This data collected by companies like Google and Meta – as well as by third party apps and data brokers – can be used to identify and potentially prosecute those who seek abortions. In a post-Roe world, this means Facebook data could help criminalize pregnant people who have obtained an abortion, or anyone who helped them.
Contact: Gabby Arias, [email protected]