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  • Writer's pictureHelen Jamieson

How social media is censoring women’s health content

At Wallace Health we’re passionate about the power of content and how it can change behaviour and improve lives. 


Along with our clients, we understand the value and the need to create accessible content for all. 


We are also passionate about promoting women’s health and are part of The Eve Appeal’s Every Woman Promise initiative to champion women’s health in the workplace.


So it was disheartening to discover the results of a recent survey which highlighted how social media is censoring women’s health content.


Algorithms on social platforms remove content  


Nine out of 10 respondents that shared women’s health content online had experienced some form of censorship 


In the survey of more than 50 organisations, the CensHERship campaign found nine out of 10 respondents that shared women’s health content online had experienced some form of censorship over the past 12 months. 


Social media platforms including Facebook and Instagram use algorithms to flag and remove content which they categorise as inappropriate. They are classifying female body parts such as breast and vagina as inappropriate despite the lack of any sexual context related to the content. 


Worringly CensHERship highlighted a breast cancer awareness campaign which had to use male nipples in its posts because female nipples were banned. And a post explaining how women should check their breasts for cancer was flagged as ‘prostitution’. 


The campaign hopes to end the routine censorship of women’s health content online. But in the meantime how can we properly raise awareness of women’s health issues? 


Vital for healthcare professionals to share information 


Women in the UK live on average longer than men but they spend more years in poor health in comparison. 


It’s vital that qualified healthcare professionals can share their advice on women’s health on social media, not only to educate but to dispel myths and misinformation. 


Wallace supports healthcare professionals to develop tools to help explain medical conditions to their patients. For example, we produced a series of visual aids to help doctors with discussions about breast cancer treatment for our client who is a cancer care provider.

 

These illustrations appear on the client’s website and can be downloaded. But given the results of the survey above it’s highly likely they would be ‘censored’ if they were used on their social media.  


A glimmer of hope 


YouTube is on a mission to counter medical misinformation on social media 


The YouTube health shelf provides a glimmer of hope in terms of women being able to access expert and valuable content. YouTube is on a mission to counter medical misinformation on social media and with over 3 billion views of health videos in 2022, the largest video view social platform is working with credible partners to build a new tier of ‘super content’. 


Wallace has developed a service dedicated to helping our clients maximise this opportunity with the right content, expertly produced and activated with a solid strategy. 

Providing female audiences with medical content in short video format on a trusted platform has to be a big step forward in terms of promoting women’s health and making the information accessible. 


Finding alternatives 


Social media is a quick and easy way for women – particularly young women – to learn about and discuss their health. It’s important for women to not feel restricted in the words they use to describe their health and anatomy. 


Until the social media platforms ensure women’s health content can be shared without censorship, we must use other ways to engage female audiences and give them access to the information they need - and deserve – to manage their health. 



Breast cancer illustrations, censoring women's health
Illustrations, developed by Wallace Health for a group of breast cancer surgeons, to help patients understand their diagnosis. These would likely be banned from social media for containing explicit sexual content.

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