On July 10th, Facebook and Instagram announced that the social media platforms will ban content about conversion therapy on their platforms in an effort to combat hate speech online.
“We don’t allow attacks against people based on sexual orientation or gender identity and are updating our policies to ban the promotion of conversion therapy services,” said Instagram public policy director of Europe, the Middle East, and Africa Tara Hopkins in a statement to CNN.
The process of following through on their promise was more involved than you may assume. Initially, the companies simply banned conversion therapy ads, though they’ve been working on a more comprehensive policy. Both Instagram and Facebook worked with Mathew Shura, co-founder of Born Perfect — a joint effort between him and the National Center for Lesbian Rights dedicated to ending the practice of conversion therapy — to craft a procedure that would actively identify any content around the heinous work. The push to ban the topic on Facebook and Instagram also comes on the heels of the UN calling for a worldwide ban on conversion therapy. Shurka worked with the UN for this global directive as well.
“When I was in conversion therapy and lost and confused, I literally had no resources,” Shurka told the Washington Blade. “Now you have the U.N. being really clear on a global level that this is something that has to end, and we’re going to push forward in advocating for that … It’s just the world of a difference as a survivor for me, and I really do think it will save lives and save families from ever choosing to go down that path.”
Many conversion therapy organizations were already using the platform in an attempt to promote the practice; however, a large number of these companies use deceptive and misleading marketing to get clicks from those they normally wouldn’t. This practice includes including Pride flags in ant-LGBTQ+ content or using confusing and vague language — like “gender” or “sexual wholeness.”
Shurka’s hope for the ban is ultimately to stop queer people from having to see the fraudulent and deceitfully convincing content. According to the expert, by stopping the spread of this messaging on the social media platforms we log-on to every day, we can help eradicate the spread of this practice — and eventually conversion therapy itself.