Facebook, Instagram Ban 'Conversion Therapy'-Related Content

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Monday July 13, 2020

Facebook and Facebook-owned Instagram announced on July 10 that they would no longer permit content promoting so-called "conversion therapy" on their social media platforms, reports CNN.

Practitioners of "conversion therapy" claim that prayer and talk therapy can "cure" or "convert" LGBTQ people into heterosexuals and cisgender people. Reputable mental health professionals have long condemned the practice and raised the alarm about the psychological and emotional toll the pseudo-scientific practice can exact on those who undergo it.

Concerns about the devastating effects of the ineffectual practice have led to bans on inflicting "conversion therapy" on minors in twenty states and a number of localities. Some countries have taken action, as well: Germany banned the practice from being used on minors earlier this year; Canadian lawmakers are mulling a national ban; and some British lawmakers have recently pressed for the UK government to revisit the issue of a nation-wide ban.

Mere days before Facebook and Instagram announced the ban, a report by a UN independent expert who specializes in LGBTQ-related discrimination and violence called for the end of "conversion therapy" everywhere in the world.

Yahhoo News, reporting on the story, noted that the American Medical Association has warned that as many as one-third of those who are subjected to "conversion therapy" attempt suicide. The AMA and survivors of the practice have described techniques that are indistinguishable from torture, including electroshock, starvation, and aversion techniques such as the infliction of pain or nausea.

Born Perfect, an initiative from The National Center for Lesbian Rights, worked with Facebook to create an algorithm that would identify such content, a press release from NCLR said. Born Perfect co-founder Mathew Shurka said: "These fraudulent practitioners and organizations have exploited platforms like Instagram to prey on vulnerable LGBTQ people.

"Removing this harmful practice will save lives."

In recent years a number of high-profile former advocates and practitioners of "conversion therapy" have come out as never having been "cured" at all and have denounced the practice. Some have issued public apologies to those harmed by the quack practice.

Facebook cast the move as an expansion of its existing policy to ban hate-related content. The new policy applies to posts as well as advertisements, and users can help by flagging content to promotes the discredited practice.

Reported CNN:

The platform will also stop recommending content related to conversion therapy, such as testimonials to its efficacy or posts in praise of or in support of the practice, except those in a legislative context.

CNN also reported that a Twitter spokesperson said that the platform, too, has rules against the promotion of "conversion therapy" already in place.

The spokesperson said that Twitter is "working to make the training decks more clear so that team members have a wide variety of examples to refer to and our enforcement of this is consistent and scaleable globally."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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