A woman who recently suffered a stillbirth penned an emotional letter to technology companies this week about how she still receives baby-related advertisements even after she shared on social media that her son had died.
Gillian Brockell first shared her open letter to Facebook, Instagram, Experian and Twitter on the latter platform on Tuesday. It came more than a week after an earlier post in which she revealed the sad update about her son.
Brockell, a video editor at The Washington Post, was at the hospital when she shared the post and was “in the process of delivering” her son, who she said would “be stillborn.”
Her note to tech companies was also posted on her employer’s website.
“I know you knew I was pregnant,” Brockell wrote before admitting to using hashtags and clicking on advertisements that were related to her pregnancy. The companies likely noticed the pictures and her post about her baby shower, as well as her Google searches pertaining to her being an expecting mother, she wrote.
“But didn’t you also see me googling ‘braxton hicks vs. preterm labor’ and ‘baby not moving’? 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?” Brockell asked. “Is that not something you could track?”
“And let me tell you what social media is like when you finally come home from the hospital with the emptiest arms in the world, after you and your husband have spent days sobbing in bed, and you pick up your phone for a few minutes of distraction before the next wail,” she wrote. “It’s exactly, crushingly, the same as it was when your baby was still alive. A Pea in the Pod. Motherhood Maternity. Latched Mama. Every damn Etsy tchotchke I was considering for the nursery.”
And despite hitting the “I don’t want to see this ad” option and relaying that the advertisements were “not relevant to me,” Brockell claimed that the companies’ algorithm determined that she had “given birth.”
It “assumes a happy result,” she continued, adding that she was then sent ads for items like strollers and nursing bras.
Experian, she said, urged her through a spam email to “’finish registering your baby’ with them.”
“Please, Tech Companies, I implore you: If your algorithms are smart enough to realize that I was pregnant, or that I’ve given birth, then surely they can be smart enough to realize that my baby died, and advertise to me accordingly — or maybe, just maybe, not at all,” she concluded.
In an addendum below her post, Brockell noted that Rob Goldman, Facebook’s Vice President of ads replied to her Twitter version of the letter.
“I am so sorry for your loss and your painful experience with our products,” Goldman wrote. “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.”
Facebook and Instagram directed Fox News to the post upon request for comment.
“We cannot imagine the pain of those who have experienced this type of loss," a Twitter spokesperson said in a statement to Fox News. "We are continuously working on improving our advertising products to ensure they serve appropriate content to the people who use our services.”
An Experian spokesperson told Fox News that the company had contacted Brockell to apologize and share their "deepest condolences."
"While the email was not based on marketing data, we understand the inappropriate timing of the communication," Experian said.