Baby Adverts On Facebook ‘Taunting’ Woman Who Lost Baby

Anna England Kerr had used the social media site to tell friends her daughter was stillborn...

Woman at her laptop

by Sophie Wilkinson |
Updated on

Wah-wah-wah-wah-wah-wah-wah, to the tune of Baa Baa Black Sheep. How many times have your enjoyable YouTube viewings of ‘Lady Gaga’s Shadiest Moments’ and memes of Theresa May dancing to reggae been interrupted by the cries of a baby emanating from the pre-roll advert of doom, your downtime stolen by THAT advert that all women of a certain vintage will get, regardless of how many adverts for motorbikes they click on?

For one woman, the adverts, on her Facebook rather than her YouTube, were more than a constant tap-tap-tap of annoyance. Each time she logged on, she’d be besieged by adverts for stuff to do with parenting - ‘baby blankets, cots, cribs, mobiles’ - after she’d used the social networking site to share news that her daughter was stillborn.

Anna England Kerr saw these adverts for months after she posted on Facebook about her tragic loss, even though she had changed her settings and reported the posts as ‘not relevant’.

In an open letter to Facebook, reported by The Times, Anna wrote of the pain of losing her baby Clara, and told the company, ’I’m happy with you using my data as long as you don’t use it to make me cry.

‘We turned to Facebook to quietly tell our friends and family about our tragedy but my feed was filled with ads for baby things and there was only so much scrolling I could do without bursting into tears. I found the setting to hide parenting ads for a year but it did nothing.’

But while pregnant with Clara and excited about the prospect of her baby’s arrival, Anna had clicked on all manner of baby-related items, in searches which were reflected by her Facebook ads. But after losing her child, the baby-related pop-ups understandably made her distressed, and she had to ‘steel’ herself whenever logging on. ‘Your ads were unintentionally taunting me with reminders of what I’d lost,’ she concluded.

Facebook has apologised for the ‘additional pain’ of the adverts, putting their resurgence after Anna’s request she not see them anymore, down to a bug in the Hide Ad Topics feature, which was introduced so users could get rid of triggering adverts related to parenting or alcohol. A Facebook spokesperson said: ‘The bug has been fixed but we are continuing to improve our models to detect and prevent these ads,’ and Anna even received a personal call from Lady Mendelsohn, the Vice President of Facebook in Europe, to express her condolences and assure her progress would be made.

The story sparks some thoughts - not only a wondering why do these adverts follow us around, but how come our data says so much about us but Facebook isn’t able to implement protections for those affected by the brutal truth that one in four pregnancies end in miscarriage or stillbirth? As a space that is so frequently used by people making big announcements, surely the bosses at Facebook can work harder to keep the bugs at bay?

Meanwhile, in other, Facebook-related news, Nick Clegg, the former deputy prime minister, has got a new job at Facebook as its head of global affairs and communications

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