Woman slams social media firms for baby ads after stillbirth

A woman whose child was stillborn has slammed the targeted advertising of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram after she returned home from the hospital and kept getting baby-related sales pitches.

Gillian Brockell, a journalist with The Washington Post, said that if those social media giants were clever enough to know she was pregnant they should also have figured out she'd lost the baby.

She shared the bad news last month in a tweet.

"I know you knew I was pregnant," Brockell wrote to the companies in a letter posted Wednesday on The Washington Post and Twitter.

"It's my fault, I just couldn't resist those Instagram hashtags - #30weekspregnant, #babybump. And, silly me! I even clicked once or twice on the maternity wear ads Facebook served up."

"But didn't you also see me googling 'braxton hicks vs. pre-term labour' and 'baby not moving'?", Brockell added.

"Did you not see my three days of social media silence, uncommon for a high-frequency user like me?

"And then the announcement post with keywords like 'heartbroken' and 'problem' and 'stillborn' and the 200 teardrop emoticons from my friends?

"Is that not something you could track?"

Facebook's vice-president of advertising Rob Goldman responded to Brockell apologetically, lamenting her "painful experience with our products."

"We have a setting available that can block ads about some topics people may find painful - including parenting.

"It still needs improvement, but please know that we're working on it & welcome your feedback," Goldman wrote.

Brockell said she knew there was such a setting but that it was not easy to find at first, especially amid all her grieving.

"We never asked for the pregnancy or parenting ads to be turned on; these tech companies triggered that on their own, based on information we shared," Brockell wrote.

"So what I'm asking is that there be similar triggers to turn this stuff off on its own, based on information we shared."

She said that after she blocked the baby ads, she got ads on how to adopt a child.