Washington Post editor hits tech companies for pregnancy ads after losing baby

An editor at The Washington Post criticized technology companies over their ad algorithms targeting pregnant women, explaining in an opinion piece published Wednesday that she continued to see advertisements for maternity products even after her baby was stillborn.

Addressing tech companies directly, Gillian Brockell, a video editor for the news outlet's opinion section, wrote that she posted regularly on social media about her pregnancy, and used hashtags like "#30weekspregnant," and "#babybump" on Instagram.

She expressed certainty that the tech companies were aware of her Google history that included searches for maternity and nursery products.

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Brockell then questioned why her targeted pregnancy ads continued even as she searched for symptoms of a stillborn child, or after she posted an announcement on social media about her loss.

"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," Brockell wrote. "It’s exactly, crushingly, the same as it was when your baby was still alive."

"Please, Tech Companies, I implore you," she added. "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."

Brockell also shared her story on Twitter, where it received a response from Facebook's vice president of advertising.

Rob Goldman expressed his condolences to Brockell, and noted that the company has a setting that can block ads about certain topics that it's continuing to improve.

Brockell said she was aware of the setting, but that she had hoped companies would do more to adjust the targeted ads on their own.