A widower who launched an online campaign has told how Facebook banned a photo of a cancer survivor proudly showing her scars – because it was “suggestive content”.
John Piears, 49, lost his wife Beata, 41, to ovarian cancer last October and started a campaign to highlight his concerns about the “profit-led” approach to drug research.
He launched a campaign in her memory with a Facebook photo of a cancer patient with a scar left by a surgically-implanted drug port, and a board fully covering her chest.
The father-of-two hoped the image – which had the slogan “UK Governments: The profits on cancer drugs are killing us” – would raise awareness.
But the businessman was outraged when Facebook banned his paid-for advert which used the photo because it showed “excessive amounts of skin or suggestive content”.
Facebook has since said it made a mistake when it removed the advert and apologised, after the company was approached for comment.
Baffled John, from West Horsley, Surrey, said: “I feel angry as it’s just wrong.
“It’s clearly not sexual. I’ve put so much effort into this campaign just to be shot down.”
Dental nurse Beata was diagnosed with ovarian cancer when she was 37, in July 2012.
She had emergency surgery – including a full hysterectomy and chemotherapy – before travelling to Austria and Germany for immunotherapy.
But she passed away on October 8, 2015, and John vowed to raise awareness of how companies are “profiteering from cancer”.
He said: “She was a true inspiration, showing the most amazing strength and determination during her three year battle.
“I started to write articles campaigning about issues that I felt passionate about, in particular how commercial conflicts of interests are slowing down the search for cancer cures.
“Did you know that only 1.7% of the money spent by a leading cancer charity is likely to be spent on developing safe and effective new drugs that the NHS can afford to routinely use to treat patients?
“It’s only when someone puts all the information together that you realise the problem.
“We have a system that has no incentive to find a cure.”
He launched the campaign Dying for a Cure in March, and as part of his drive to gain signatures to a petition calling for change, he used a stock photo of a cancer survivor.
The photo of the woman, who has no hair, show her drug port scar and while she is topless, she has a sign fully covering her chest.
John launched a boosted Facebook post – a paid for advert – using the image, and in just 12 days his petition calling on law reforms got nearly 5000 signatures.
But the advert was pulled for being “suggestive” on July 8.
The message to John from Facebook said: “Your advert wasn’t approved because it doesn’t follow our Advertising Policies by featuring an image containing excessive amounts of skin or suggestive content.
“Facebook does not allow images that depict people in explicit or suggestive positions, or images that show nudity or cleavage – even if portrayed for artistic or educational reasons.
“How to fix: We recommend using content that focuses on your product or service in a non-sexual manner.”
Furious John added: “I appealed the next day highlighting that the image was being used for a cancer campaign to raise serious issues and was clearly a cancer patient and not sexual in any way.
“Boosting posts on Facebook is the main way I am promoting the campaign at present, so I depend on Facebook adverts to raise awareness of the campaign.
“I felt very deflated when I saw that Facebook suspended any promotion of this post, as there had been an excellent response to it.”
After Facebook was approached for comment, the company reinstated the advert with the photo, and said it was blocked in error.
A Facebook spokesman said: “Facebook is a place for people and organisations to campaign for the things that matter to them, and Dying For a Cure’s post is a great example of that.
“In this instance we made a mistake, and have contacted the charity to let them know that the advert has been reinstated and to apologise for any inconvenience caused”.