Facebook has apologized to a woman after she accused them of “taunting” her with baby-related advertisements following a stillbirth. She was reportedly unable to turn off the ads despite repeated efforts.
In an open letter to Facebook published in HuffPost, Anna England Kerr demanded the social network to stop “taunting” her with baby-related advertisements after the stillbirth of her daughter.
“My baby has died – I won’t be buying baby things. Your ads were unintentionally taunting me with reminders of what I’d lost,” expressed Kerr in the article. “Please get better at selling me stuff. Make the way you target ads or sell data more responsive to people hiding parenting ads or similar topics. Sell us other stuff instead. I’m happy for you to use my data as long as you don’t use it to make me cry.”
On the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire program, Kerr went into further detail about her unsuccessful attempts to get the advertisements on Facebook turned off.
“Feeding bottles, baby blankets, cots, cribs, mobiles… the list is endless, and I might have been interested. I would have been a great contender for all of these ads if everything had been fine, and then it wasn’t, and I became the least likely person to buy any of those things,” declared Kerr. “Facebook knew that, and I wanted them to stop.”
“Everybody can access their ad preferences, and they very helpfully have probably realized that there are cases such as ours where you really just can’t handle seeing and being inundated with baby references. Other options are for example to turn off advertising for alcohol, so these aren’t just random topics, these are important occurrences in your life,” she explained. “So I switched it to hide parenting ads, and I thought that would help. It did nothing, so I tried to go into the more detailed ad settings and I turned off anything that could possibly be related to babies, parenting, family, home I think… I’m literally clicking everything I can find. That didn’t work either, so then I started reporting all of the ads.”
“You can click on the ad and say, ‘This ad is irrelevant to me.’ I did that for every single ad, and you have to understand, when you’ve just lost your child you are exhausted. There is nothing that I have found that is more exhausting than grief, and you’re trying to piece together your world again, and Facebook is important because you can share,” Kerr noted. “You can find people who are going through similar things like you, and you find a community that can help you through things, and we used it to tell our friends as well, because it means you’re not endlessly having the same conversation and listening to their disbelief and their pain. You can concentrate on yourself. But it didn’t work, and after a couple months, it’s now four months since Clara was born, I’ve had enough.”
Facebook finally fixed the problem this week, apologizing to Kerr and blaming the advertisements on a bug.
“We’ve spoken to Anna and expressed our deep sympathy for her loss and the additional pain this has caused her,” claimed a Facebook spokesman. “The bug has been fixed, but we are continuing to improve our machine-learning models that detect and prevent these ads.”
Facebook’s Vice President for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, Nicola Mendelsohn, also reportedly called Kerr on the phone to apologize.