Gillian Brockell/Facebook Kris Seavers

Woman pens open letter about getting baby product ads after her son was stillborn

'Do you know what your algorithm decides, tech companies?'


Alexis Tatum


Published Dec 12, 2018   Updated May 20, 2021, 11:35 pm CDT

Yesterday, a woman penned an open letter to tech companies encouraging them to fix their algorithms. She was tired of seeing parenting ads after her child was stillborn.

Gillian Brockell, a Washington Post video editor, said she documented her pregnancy online to share with family and friends. On Nov. 30, she shared on Twitter that her son died. In the following weeks, she continued to see ads about parenting on Facebook and Instagram. The ads led her to write the open letter, which has earned nearly 100,000 combined likes and retweets.

“Do you know what your algorithm decides, tech companies?” Brockell wrote. “It decides you’ve given birth, assumes a happy result, and deluges with ads for the best nursing bras, tricks to get the baby to sleep through the night, and the best strollers to grow with your baby.”

The viral post eventually drew the attention of Rob Goldman, Facebook’s vice president of ads, who apologized for the “painful experience.”

Goldman recommended that Brockell block the ads about sensitive topics, which includes parenting. Brockell responded that the setting was difficult to find, and that if the algorithm was smart enough to know that she was pregnant, the word “stillborn” should’ve triggered a break in the ads.

Several other users shared their experience with problematic ads and child loss. About 24,000 children each year are stillborn in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In response to Brockell’s post, a Twitter representative told BuzzFeed News that the platform is “continuously working on improving our advertising products to ensure they serve appropriate content to the people who use our services.”

Brockell shared an updated version of her letter in the Washington Post perspective section, which you can read here.


H/T BuzzFeed News

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*First Published: Dec 12, 2018, 6:09 pm CST