Several condom companies and sexual health campaigns last year said Twitter had blocked them from advertising about condoms and safer sex. The reason for the blocks appeared to be Twitter’s confusing, inconsistent rules about “sexual content” in ads.
Rewire has learned Twitter has tweaked those rules. And condom retailer Lucky Bloke, the first company to speak out about the issue, finally had its advertising ban lifted Monday morning after nine months of complaints and public campaigns to get the policy changed.
“We’ve got great news!” reads a form email sent from Twitter to Melissa White, Lucky Bloke’s CEO. “We recently adjusted our advertising policies, and are happy to say that you can now use Twitter Ads campaigns.”
White works to educate the public about how proper condom fit leads to greater pleasure and more consistent use. Her particular sexual health message requires discussing sexual pleasure, which she says is also a better strategy for sexual health campaigns than sterile doctor’s room images.
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But an innocuous-seeming promoted tweet last year fell afoul of Twitter’s ad policies, probably because Lucky Bloke’s website includes frank discussions about how the right condom size makes sex more pleasurable.
Lucky Bloke wasn’t alone in being banned for seemingly non-explicit material, as Rewire reported. And the issue of sexual health campaigns being stymied by social media—not just on Twitter, but on other sites like Facebook and YouTube—saw fresh media attention last week in The Atlantic.
A Twitter spokesperson told Rewire that the change to the company’s ad policy for “adult or sexual products and services” was launched in mid-January.
“Ads for non-prescription contraceptive products such as condoms and spermicides, and ads for personal lubricants, now fall under our health and pharmaceutical products and services policy,” the spokesperson said.
That’s a welcome change for advocates who were frustrated by the stigma that the old policy seemed to show—marginalizing condoms as “adult” material instead of an important public health issue.
The new policy also clarifies some confusing language that seemed to ban ads for “contraceptives” while still allowing some ads for condoms—a contraceptive method by any definition. Now the policy lists birth control pills and emergency contraception as “restricted,” or subject to review by Twitter, just like any other pharmaceutical product.
But the policy still prohibits “sexual content” in ads or linked material for sexual health awareness or condoms. That was the language that seemed to give companies and campaigns the most trouble, and the language that advocates found baffling. How do you talk about sexual health in a way that actually reaches people without also talking about sex?
White told Rewire that she is “incredibly encouraged” by Twitter’s policy changes and her account reinstatement, but Twitter and other social media companies still have “dangerous and antiquated” policies about reproductive health.
“However, to have them budge at all shows critical progress can be made. And for that we should celebrate a little,” White said. “We invite tech giants like Twitter, that have this incredible opportunity, to join us and work together to end sexual health stigma and censorship for good.”