This month, The Atlantic ran an article on how sexual health organizations are finding themselves censored by social media networks as they try to get the word out about healthy sexuality. The piece opens with the plight of Bedsider, a site that provides information on birth control options. In the past year, some of their promotional content has been stonewalled by both Twitter and Facebook.
In the case of Twitter, the social network prohibits the promotion of adult or sexual products or services. According to their guidelines, "safer sex education, HIV/STD awareness campaigns, and non-prescription contraceptives" are allowed, but they cannot contain or link to sexual content. In Besider's case, they were penalized for the following tweet: "If you think condoms aren't for you, you just haven't found the right one yet. See how good safer sex can feel." The reason Twitter asked them to pull the plug on this promotion? The tweet linked back to their website. According to a representative from Twitter, who was quoted in The Atlantic, the fact that the article painted sex "in a recreational/positive light versus being neutral and dry" was problematic.
And Twitter isn't the only network causing problem for sexuality educators. Facebook's and YouTube's policies are also forcing educators to censor themselves, and even Google Checkout is making it difficult for sexual health organizations to sell their educational products. One organization selling contraceptive education kits online using Google Checkout was forced to pull the product because "Google didn’t allow the sale of sex toys." The sex toy in question? A wooden penis demonstration model meant to be used for showing how to put on a condom.
Still, there inconsistencies in how these rules are regulated. While sexual health organizations struggle to get out the good word, publications such as Playboy regularly feature bare breasts and suggestive text in their tweets, without repercussion.
The primary issue with these inconsistencies is tha fact that many out there—both teenagers and adults—use the Internet as one of their primary sources of information on sexuality. One report shows that 89 percent of teens learn about sex in this way. So what is a sex educator to do?
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