Woman writes heartbreaking note to tech companies when baby ads continued to appear after stillborn birth

Author: CBS News
Published: Updated:
Photo of smartphones via CBS News.
Photo of smartphones via CBS News.

A grieving woman shared a heartbreaking “open letter” asking Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Experian to change they way they advertise after she was bombarded with products targeted at mothers. Her baby was stillborn at the end of last month.

“I know you knew I was pregnant. It’s my fault, I just couldn’t resist those Instagram hashtags – #30weekspregnant, #babybump,” tweeted Gillian Brockell, a video editor in the opinions section of The Washington Post, according to her bio. “But didn’t you also see me googling ‘Is this Braxton Hicks?’ and ‘baby not moving?’…Is that not something you could track?”

In the post that went live on Tuesday, she wrote the pain she experienced when she attempted to distract herself by looking at social media after returning from the hospital with “the emptiest arms in the world.”

“After you’ve spent days sobbing in bed, and pick up your phone for a couple of minutes of distraction before the next wail. It’s exactly, crushingly, the same as it was when your baby was still alive,” Brockell wrote. “Pea in the Pod. Motherhood Maternity…every goddam Etsy tchotchke I was planning for the nursery.”

Brockell wrote that when she, and “millions” of other “brokenhearted people” click “I don’t want to see this ad,” the algorithm deduced that she had given birth, sending more ads to remind her of her loss.

She wrote that the sites sent her “ads for the best nursing bras,” tricks advising how to get a baby to sleep through the night and “the best strollers to grow with your baby [mine will forever be 4 pounds, 1 ounce].”

She ended the heart-wrenching post by asking tech companies to do better.

“If you’re smart enough to realize that I’m pregnant, that I’ve given birth,” she wrote. “Then surely you’re smart enough to realize that my baby died, and can advertise to me accordingly, or maybe just maybe, not at all.”

As of early Thursday, the tweet had over 24,000 retweets and over 59,000 likes.
Approximately 24,000 stillbirths were reported in the U.S. in 2013, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nearlythree-quarters of American women use Facebook alone, according to 2018 Pew Research Center surveys.

The letter, which was republished in The Washington Post on Wednesday with changes, garnered a response from Facebook’s VP of ads, Rob Goldman.

“I am so sorry for your loss and your painful experience with our products,” Goldman tweeted. Goldman wrote that the platform has a setting to block ads about “some topics people may find painful.” But he acknowledged that “it still needs improvement.”

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