Does Twitter Have a Problem With Condoms?

Illustration for article titled Does Twitter Have a Problem With Condoms?

The CEO of condom company LuckyBloke is raising a fuss, after she tried to participate in Twitter's ad program and was rejected. Apparently, she'd run afoul of the company's "adult sexual products and services policy." Now she's rallying fans and calling on Twitter to adopt more liberal advertising policies.

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Condoms for everybody!

ThinkProgress reports that, after weeks of emails touting the benefits of Twitter's ad program, LuckyBloke CEO Melissa White finally caved and decided to try a promoted tweet. Here's what she submitted: "Tired of lousy condoms? LuckyBloke.com Condom Experts: shipping the world's best condoms (world-wide) w/a 100% money back guarantee."

It's definitely an advertisement! But otherwise it seems pretty innocuous, and I'd rather see that in my timeline than a dumb promo for Taco Bell or some such. And yet, the tweet and LuckyBloke in general were promptly rejected from the program. From a piece by White at RH Reality Check:

Illustration for article titled Does Twitter Have a Problem With Condoms?

No further rationale was provided.

White has responded by, basically, calling on Twitter to lighten up. LuckyBloke launched a petition calling on Twitter to relax its ad policies for condoms, complete with #tweet4condoms hashtag. "Kindly remove condoms from Twitter Ads content blacklist," the petition requests. "In the fight against the spread of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and unintended pregnancies, condoms are the first line of defense."

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But it's worth taking a closer look at the specifics of Twitter's policy.

Available here, it starts out simply: "Twitter prohibits the promotion of adult or sexual products and services globally," OK. The policy also outlines what's included and what's not. You can't promote pornography or escort services, for instance, which seems pretty straightforward. Exceptions include medical drawings, nekkid fine art, stuff about breastfeeding, and "modeled clothing (such as lingerie) that is not sexual in nature." Campaigns for safer sex are A-OK, as well:

Safer sex education, HIV/STD awareness campaigns, provided the ads:

  • do not contain sexual content
  • do not link to sexual content, or the above prohibited products and services

Not exempt: contraceptives in general. However! It's worth noting that Twitter actually places numerous restrictions on promoting health and pharmaceutical products, period. That ranges from pet pharmacies to dietary supplements. Can you imagine the spampocalypse that would ensue if they opened those floodgates? And do you really want pharmaceutical reps all up in your mentions?

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Making this whole mess even more confusing: Twitter technically does allow condom advertising.

A Twitter spokesperson pointed out to ThinkProgress that Durex has advertised on Twitter. But it's only OK if the ads "do not contain or link to any sexual content." Which seems pretty damn lopsided in favor of big brands who just want to get a little extra name recognition and can therefore play coy. Besides, it's hard to see anything especially seXXXy about LuckyBloke's website. If that's really what got LuckyBloke in trouble, Twitter needs to unclutch its fingers from its pearls.

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But White may very well have run into trouble with the other specific requirement for condom ads: You're only allowed to run the ad in specific countries, among them the U.S. Note that the submitted tweet says LuckyBloke ships world-wide.

Either way, Twitter should've responded with something more useful than NOPE, NO CAN DO. But it seems likely the company's guilty of lamentable customer service, rather than a puritanical distaste for condoms.

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Photo via Shutterstock.

DISCUSSION

luckybloke
LuckyBloke

Kelly, thank you for addressing our campaign. I wanted to share some additional information that will shed further light on our cause.

I was aware and I was very careful to select only countries approved in that section. I specifically chose US, Canada, UK and Australia. I also purposely chose to target adult (18+) accounts that followed sex and relationship personalities: Dan Savage (@fakedansavage) and Emily Morse (@SexwithEmily) – as I felt they'd be more receptive to our message. You'll also see from the tweet (attached) that there is nothing explicit. It is very innocuous. In fact, it doesn't even mention "sex".

I reached out to Twitter several times and have heard nothing. This was the first tweet we had ever tried to promote. And we were quite perplexed that our tweet was denied AND our account was deemed completely ineligible.

While I understand it appears that Twitter allows condom and sexual health promotion, yet clearly that is not the case where we were concerned. Recently Bedsider (who has had a complicated relationship with Twitter Ads) and The STD Project (whose account was also banned) made public statements about not being able to utilize twitters promotion platform, as well. Interestingly, they are both organizations with a sexual health education bent. [If interested you can read more here: http://bit.ly/1nmymsm ]

For Lucky Bloke, this isn't about selling condoms.

I decided to act when I recognized the global sexual health repercussions of Twitter's dangerous policies. It is about the stigmas and shame (surrounding sexual health) perpetuated by Twitter (and other organizations and corporations) with huge global reach. You simply cannot responsibly categorize condoms (and sexual health messaging) with hate speech, guns and drugs. And to say that condoms and sexual health can be promoted under certain conditions (ie no reference to sex or sexuality) is in fact actually a de facto ban. Because condoms and safer sex information is used for sex.

I feel that the sexual health aspect of this piece is important to share far and wide — especially with savvy Jezebel readers. And while I actually enjoyed most of your piece and am grateful for the attention, I am frustrated by the dismissal of issue — and conclusion that Twitter simply has poor customer service.

It is a much bigger issue than that.

Best,

Melissa White
Lucky Bloke, CEO