After Gillian Brockell gave birth to a stillborn son in November, her devastation didn’t end with that life changing event.
The video editor for the Washington Post went on to be haunted by her experience, thanks to social media and it’s algorithms.
Calling out tech companies like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter the grieving mother published an open letter on Wednesday.
The two-page emotional pleas has gone on to receive over 40,000 Likes, close to 18K Retweets and thousands of Replies in less than 24 hours.”An open letter to @Facebook, @Twitter, @Instagram and @Experian regarding algorithms and my son’s birth,” Gillian began the post.
“I know you knew I was pregnant. It’s my fault, I just couldn’t resist those Instagram hashtags,” she said, offering examples.
After admitting to clicking “once or twice” on maternity-wear ads offered to her on Facebook, thanks to the advertising algorithm.
Gillian says she googled baby and nursery related products followed by an Amazon gift registry ahead of her baby shower, photos of which were also proudly posted on social media.
But then, she adds: “But didn’t you see me googling ‘is this Braxton hicks’ and ‘baby not moving’?”
“Did you not see the three days of silence, uncommon for a high-frequency user like me? And then the announcement with the keywords “heartbroken” and “problem” and “stillborn” and the two-hundred teardrop emoticons from my friends? Is that not something you could track?”After ticking the box that says “ad not relevant”, the algorithm recalculated and assumed she’d had a healthy baby and hit her with advertising for “tricks to get the baby to sleep through the night [I would give anything to hear him cry at all], and the best strollers to grow with your baby [mine will forever be 4 pounds, 1 ounce].
“Please tech companies, I implore you, if you’re smart enough to realise that I’m pregnant, that I’ve given birth, then surely you’re smart enough to realise that my baby has died, and can advertise to me accordingly, or maybe just maybe, not at all,” she wrote, signing off.Many shared their own similar stories, with one woman revealing: “The month of my due date, I received a free package from a formula company in the mail with a congratulatory note. I still don’t know how it was being tracked, but it nearly broke me. I had miscarried five months before.”
“So very sorry and can relate 100%. In 2013, I had a term stillbirth and absolutely could not handle social media for months. Thank you for bringing this up. Wishing you lots of peace and healing in the coming months,” another empathised.
Some from the industry took note: “This is absolutely heartbreaking. I’m sorry. As someone who works in the industry, my peers and I need to do better, because we’ve created very blunt tools that cause terrible outcomes such as this.”
— Gillian Brockell (@gbrockell) December 11, 2018