A devastated Washington Post staffer who delivered a stillborn baby boy earlier this month has penned an open letter to Facebook and other Silicon Valley giants begging them to stop inundating her feed with ads promoting maternity and baby products.
Gillian Brockell, a digital video editor at The Post, and her husband of one year, Bobby Gulshan, lost their child, whom they planned to name Sohan, from unspecified in utero complications on December 1, about 32 weeks into her pregnancy.
Brockell broke the devastating news on her Twitter and Instagram pages in late November and early December, but according to her letter addressed to tech companies, that did not stop them from continuing to display ads for maternity bras, strollers and nursery decor.
Mother’s heartbreak: Washington Post staffer Gillian Brockell, who delivered a stillborn baby this month, wrote an open letter to tech companies Tuesday begging them to stop inundating her feed with ads promoting maternity products
Brockell’s written plea has gone viral, drawing nearly 2,000 sympathetic comments
‘I know you knew I was pregnant,’ Brockell writes in the opening of the missive she tweeted out on Tuesday. ‘It’s my fault, I just couldn’t resist those Instagram hashtags – #30weekspregant, #babybump. And, stupid me!, I even clicked once or twice on the maternity-wear ads Facebook served up.’
Her Instagram page displays multiple selfies tracking the growth of her baby bump and related content invoking the upcoming birth of her first child.
Brockell goes on to make the argument that if Facebook’s algorithm was able to determine that she was pregnant by tracking her searches for maternity-related merchandise and social media posts about her baby shower, it also should have been able to determine that her pregnancy ended in a stillbirth.
Brockell and her husband of one year, Bobby, were set to welcome their first child together, a boy they were going to name Sohan, on January 24
‘Didn’t you see me googling “is this braxton hicks?” and “baby not moving?”‘ Brockell inquires. ‘Did you not see the three days of silence, uncommon for a high-frequencies user like me? And then the announcement with keywords like “heartbroken” and “problem” and “stillborn” and the two-hundred teardrop emoticons from my friends? Is that not something you could track?’
Crushing blow: On November 30, Brockell took to Twitter to break the news that her and Bobby’s son will be stillborn
In a heart-wrenching tweet dated November 30, Brocklell, writing on behalf of herself and her husband, shared the news that baby Sohan will be stillborn.
‘Unbeknownst to us, something went wrong a few weeks ago, he stopped growing and then passed away some time Tuesday or Wednesday,’ she wrote that Friday.
She went on to say that her doctors have an idea what happened, and that she and Bobby will try to get pregnant again in the future.
‘But right now, we are devastated,’ the statement read.
In her open letter to Silicon Valley giants, Brockell writes that parents who come home from the hospital ‘with the emptiest arms in the world’ and who turn to social media in their hour of grief hoping for a distraction from ‘sobbing in bed’ for day are instead reminded of their loss with ads picked out by an algorithm that has decided that the pregnancy and delivery had a ‘happy result.’
Brockell argued that if tech companies’ algorithms knew she was pregnant by tracking her searches and posts, they should have known she lost her baby
‘Please, Tech Companies, I implore you: if you’re smart enough to realize that I’m pregnant, that I’ve given birth, then surely you’re smart enough to realize that my baby died, and can advertise to me accordingly, or maybe must maybe, not at all,’ Brockell writes in conclusion.
The Post journalist’s impassioned plea has gone viral, drawing more than 19,000 retweets and nearly 2,000 sympathetic comments, including from Monica Lewinsky and Brockell’s colleague at the post Alexandra Petri.
Brockell later tweeted that someone from Facebook has reached out to her in response to her plea, but she did not go into detail.