Networks of Dissuasion: Mapping Online Attacks on Reproductive Rights in France

Authors: Cécile Simmons and Clara Martiny
Published: 24 January 2024

This report was originally published in French on 17 January.

The reversal of Roe v. Wade by the US Supreme Court in June 2022 had a profound impact on the United States, marking a regression in women’s access to abortion and reproductive rights in the country. Recent years have been marked by similar restrictions in abortion rights around the world, with Poland introducing a near-total ban on abortion in October 2021 and Hungary putting forward a law forcing women to listen to the heartbeat of their foetus before receiving an abortion.

Despite France having a longstanding history of anti-abortion activism since the enactment of Loi Veil, which legalised abortion in the country in 1974, the US Supreme Court ruling appears to have emboldened anti-abortion groups in France. This is evident in the rise of attacks on prominent organisations advocating for reproductive rights, such as Planning Familial. Additionally, there have been high-profile stunt campaigns by anti-abortion groups, including a coordinated sticker campaign on rental bikes in Paris.

While recent months have shown multiple examples of offline anti-abortion mobilisation, a deeper understanding of the online activities of anti-abortion networks and the spread, amplification and monetisation of anti-abortion views, abortion misinformation and harmful content related to reproductive rights is lacking. Based on quantitative and qualitative analysis, this report examines anti-abortion activity in France across multiple social media platforms, to better understand the actors, narratives and tactics used to spread, amplify and monetise anti-abortion opinions, abortion misinformation, and harmful content which undermines abortion rights. It examines how social media platforms – Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and X/Twitter – and their recommendation algorithms and other features can contribute to the circulation of such content. In doing so, the report aims to shed light on potential gaps in the enforcement of platforms’ terms of service and whether these terms are fit for purpose when it comes to French users accessing reliable and fact-based information about abortion.

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