Facebook bans awareness-raising advert from Meningitis Now

The charity says the social media network told it the adverts focused on an ideal body image and included a picture that was 'scary, gory or sensational'

Meningitis Now advert banned by Facebook
Meningitis Now advert banned by Facebook

Facebook is investigating after an advert for the charity Meningitis Now, designed to raise awareness of the symptoms of the disease, was banned from paid-for space on the social networking website.

Meningitis Now said Facebook had told the charity the adverts were unsuitable because an image of a meningitis rash being tested with a glass was deemed to be "focusing on an ideal body image", while a second picture, of a child lying on a hospital bed, was "scary, gory or sensational".

The second advert has since been cleared, the charity said.

The adverts are part of the charity’s Don’t Wait For a Rash campaign, with which it aims to raise awareness of the fact that the distinctive rash associated with meningitis is often one of the last symptoms to present itself. The adverts encourage people to make sure they are aware of the other symptoms.

A spokesman for Facebook said: "We are aware of this and are investigating."

The news comes soon after Facebook said it would not allow the sight-loss charity the RNIB to pay to promote an advert the social media giant deemed "too negative" – only for it to swiftly admit it made a mistake and reverse the decision.

Thomas Davis, social media manager at Meningitis Now, said: "Our campaigns are designed to save lives. We know Facebook is an effective way for us to give life-saving information to thousands of people who might not know about our charity and the work we do. We rely on these kinds of images to highlight just how dangerous meningitis is."

He said the image of the rash contained "nothing controversial – there’s no nudity or promotion of an unhealthy body image and it has been already shared widely online". He said there was nothing shocking or scary about the image of the child in hospital.

Both images had already been widely used and shared online, including on Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, according to Davis.

He said recent cases in the national press, such as that of four-year-old Millie Dawson, whose parents shared pictures of her battling against the disease, highlighted how powerful such images were and the amount of awareness they could create.

"We have certainly used more graphic images in the past," he said.

"In the past we’ve faced problems when using images of our supporters who have lost limbs as a result of meningitis.

"These images show the reality of the impact meningitis can have and it’s important that people see them.

"I really hope Facebook can work with us, not against us, in the future."

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