Many women don’t feel free to speak on health issues online due to censorship

Protesters descend on Meta’s offices in London

Millions of women want to use social platforms to talk about personal health issues – but feel they can’t, due to censorship over use of language and content. The study of 2,000 females found 36 percent would be comfortable discussing their bodies, ailments, and anything relevant to their wellbeing, via the likes of Instagram or Twitter.

And almost half (47 percent) use Google and other web engines more than once a month to do their research into what is happening to them.

However, 33 percent feel unable to talk about their own health on platforms such as Facebook, because there is a risk of censorship or posts being removed.

As such, 49 percent don’t think they are allowed to discuss anything to do with their genitals on social media platforms, while 45 percent don’t feel they can voice their opinions or experiences on anything to do with sex.

Menstruation (22 percent), miscarriage (16 percent), and puberty (16 percent) are other topics women believe to be off-limits due to censorship.

But this fear of sharing means those wanting to educate themselves via the experiences of others online, can’t.

The research was commissioned by Bodyform, which has been campaigning for women to have more of a voice on social media.

Last week saw the period brand organise a protest outside London’s Meta offices in a bid to stop dangerous censorship of women’s health issues on social media.

Spokeswoman Ruth Gresty said: “We have launched our anti-stigma campaign to normalise language around women’s health.

“Some platforms continue to be overzealous in their restriction of content, and as our research shows, this has left women confused about what they can and can’t post.

“And these restrictions have further impact, as millions of women are unable to share, learn, or self-educate via a means they feel comfortable with.”

The study found 36 percent of women want to use social media to find out about certain women’s personal health issues – with mental wellbeing (51 percent), menopause (49 percent), and general body issues (44 percent) the topics they would like to explore most.

Of those comfortable using platforms like Facebook or Instagram to do research, 54 percent say it is a great way of getting advice from people you don’t know well, but who can relate to your experience.

And 48 percent think it is the best way to gain a diverse mix of experiences, while 43 percent think it’s a less embarrassing way to get help from those you know, without having to be face-to-face.

Other reasons cited include it makes you feel more normal (42 percent), it’s a great way to get advice from people you know (40 percent), and it makes you feel more accepted (29 percent).

However, 43 percent believe there is a prudish attitude towards the use of language around women’s health on social media – with 61 percent of these saying it is completely inappropriate.

And as a consequence, 22 percent of women have either had one of their own posts removed, or know someone else who has – perhaps due to the language or pictures featured.

The research, by OnePoll, was carried out in conjunction with Bodyform’s 40th anniversary campaign to end the stigma and normalise language around women’s health.

Ruth Gresty, from Essity, the parent company of Bodyform, added: “We’ve been victims of social media censorship here after our ads were removed for apparently containing sexual content – they didn’t.

“And so we can only imagine how women must feel when their own content is removed without thorough explanation.

“According to the findings, more than a fifth have lost their voice on social media, at a time when women everywhere should be speaking about their experiences, and normalising what is happening to them.”

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