At the Awful Intersection of the Surveillance Economy and Women's Choice
May 30, 2019 1:24 PM   Subscribe

Femm women's fertility app revealed to be funded by anti-abortion groups to spread misinformation SLTheGuardian: Femm is funded by the Chiarascuro Foundation, a Catholic not for profit which has been a backer of anti-abortion restrictions. Femm is not the first app to collect women's personal health info and do sketchy things with said data. It is possibly the first to direct users to birth control skeptics (or at least, the first revealed by journalistic investigation), in the spirit of the fake Crisis Pregnancy Centers, now carrying to politicization of women's health into the app world.
posted by LeRoienJaune (24 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
 
On top of identifying stalkerware (previously), it sounds like smart devices should now be able to flag "backed by bad science and conservative politics"? The future is so depressing sometimes.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:30 PM on May 30, 2019 [7 favorites]


Deliberately sabotaging contraception should be prosecuted as conduct engendering life.
posted by acb at 1:41 PM on May 30, 2019 [56 favorites]


So far, no one has started review bombing the app on the Google Play store or on Apple's iTunes store, fwiw. Lots of positive reviews, and the top ones don't say anything like "fertility awareness birth control methods are considered the least effective method" or "Femm's claims that the hormone tests they support can diagnose 'underlying' medical disorders have not been scientifically proven."
posted by filthy light thief at 1:51 PM on May 30, 2019 [7 favorites]


When the post reads "they are not the first app to do so", what does the "to do so" mean?

On first read it seems to suggest that Femm ("they") is not the first app to direct users to doctors who are skeptical of hormonal birth control ("to do so", with reference to the preceding sentence). However, the link doesn't seem to back up that claim (it talks about data collection and monetization of menstruation and fertility data).

If that's not what's meant, perhaps that sentence should be edited for clarity?
posted by Kadin2048 at 2:22 PM on May 30, 2019 [1 favorite]


Femm receives much of its income from private donors including the Chiaroscuro Foundation

If I were writing a novel and named this backer the Chiaroscuro Foundation it'd be called a little too on the nose.
posted by fiercecupcake at 2:36 PM on May 30, 2019 [21 favorites]


Seriously, what the fuck is wrong with people like this? Do they hate women so fucking much they have to go resort to shit like this, where it would actually increase health risks?
posted by Old'n'Busted at 2:39 PM on May 30, 2019 [19 favorites]


Do they hate women so fucking much they have to go resort to shit like this, where it would actually increase health risks?

Yes. They do.

*sighs*
posted by Fizz at 2:53 PM on May 30, 2019 [47 favorites]


Want to feel even better about this crap? Yesterday, using my Android phone's native messaging app, I texted a friend that I'd come home from work early with cramps and a migraine.

This morning, Chrome on my work computer served me a Thinx ad.

(I have shopped for Thinx via a Chrome browser before, but not for at least a year. And that was also probably the last time I searched for or purchased anything remotely menstrual online.)
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 3:17 PM on May 30, 2019 [2 favorites]


Seriously, what the fuck is wrong with people like this? Do they hate women so fucking much they have to go resort to shit like this, where it would actually increase health risks?

They hate modern women with agency this much. Because a woman who can control her fertility enjoys a greater degree of economic self-determination than one who does not. A woman who enjoys a greater degree of economic self-determination is more choosy about life partners and more likely to end a relationship that's not working for her. A woman who has economic and social options has agency over her own life.

Women acting people is an existential threat to a patriarchal system. Of course these perpetrators of digital fraud hate the threat. And of course it would literally never occur to these so-called adherents of a religion predicated on the Ten Commandments that lying is wrong.
posted by sobell at 4:20 PM on May 30, 2019 [43 favorites]


[Tweaked post wording a little with help from the poster to disambiguate things a little, carry on.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:33 PM on May 30, 2019 [2 favorites]


Deliberately sabotaging contraception should be prosecuted as conduct engendering life.

This is actually a very good question. If the laws we're currently discussing criminalize abortion before a time a woman can reasonably know she's pregnant and somebody deliberately misleads her if she nonetheless does her due diligence then what is that liar's culpability? I can't wait to see a state AG answer it.
posted by East14thTaco at 5:07 PM on May 30, 2019 [5 favorites]


I bike by one of those crisis pregnancy centers frequently, and every time I do I wish I had some pamphlets or a warning sign or something to warn women away. I haven't figured out what would work, though, and what would be legal.

But I suppose at least with the physical centers I see what's going on; with an app like this, I'd never even see it (I'm not in the market for such an app, thanks IUD).

How is disseminating medically false information legal? (Be it vaccines or lies about contraception or lies about abortion or..)
posted by nat at 5:30 PM on May 30, 2019 [2 favorites]


the Chiarascuro Foundation

So, the foreground of what they were doing seemed bright, but in the background they were really really shady?

Sorry I have serious opinions on all this but right now they're just coming out as various types of yelling so while I calm down, wordplay.
posted by traveler_ at 5:51 PM on May 30, 2019 [7 favorites]


I bet that the next step will be apps that pretend to be offering rhythmic birth control, but which actually sabotage the user by (a) encouraging sex during fertile periods; and (b) dissuading abortion by deceiving them about the time since fertilisation. After all, a full quiver has more than a single arrow.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:32 PM on May 30, 2019 [9 favorites]


How is disseminating medically false information legal?

The "crisis pregnancy centers" get away with it because they don't charge so their speech has been considered non-commercial, which makes it much more difficult to regulate.
posted by praemunire at 6:57 PM on May 30, 2019 [9 favorites]


Deliberately sabotaging contraception should be prosecuted as conduct engendering life.
posted by acb at 1:41 PM on May 30 [24 favorites +] [!]


There have been several cases of "wrongful pregnancy," but in most cases the mother/parents were not awarded anything. Most recently a couple in Ontario have sued the hospital that was supposed to do a tubal ligation but didn't. I'm hoping they are successful.
Wrongful pregnancy lawsuits have been argued in Canadian courts before. But when they involve healthy babies, the cases are often tossed out, or awarded little or nothing. In a similar case in 1996, an Ontario family was awarded $40,000 for the pregnancy and lost wages – hardly enough to support a child for an extended period of time. The judge ruled at the time that the birth of the child did not “constitute a harm which inevitably leads to damages.”

Three years later, a similar case in the U.K. determined that, in wrongful birth cases in which a healthy child is born, no damages should be awarded to compensate for the cost of raising a child.

Critics say these sorts of decisions reflect an outdated view that having a child is a blessing, no matter if the parents planned for the child or if they can afford it. An article published in 2014 by University of Ottawa professor Bruce Feldthusen said the refusal to compensate parents for “reasonable child rearing expenses” constitutes discrimination.

This discrimination is sometimes, perhaps often, perpetrated by judges who refuse to accept and protect a woman’s right to reproductive freedom. These mothers are under-compensated, and the medical establishment that failed them is under-deterred,” Feldthusen wrote.
Emphasis mine.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 7:00 PM on May 30, 2019 [22 favorites]


This is just my gut feeling, but I think the courts are terrified of awarding damages for wrongful pregnancy, because that would almost inevitably lead to men being successfully sued--with potentially crushing judgements--for stuff like failing to use contraception when they indicated they would, having sex with someone when they were inebriated, etc. You know, sexual assault, the kind that happens all the time.

It's so common I think the courts are afraid to go there because of the impact it would have. And probably because too many judges might be looking down the barrel of lawsuits themselves.
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:23 PM on May 30, 2019 [15 favorites]


“Deliberately sabotaging contraception should be prosecuted as conduct engendering life.”

I agree. Is this the case here?
posted by third word on a random page at 2:59 AM on May 31, 2019


I bike by one of those crisis pregnancy centers frequently, and every time I do I wish I had some pamphlets or a warning sign or something to warn women away. I haven't figured out what would work, though, and what would be legal.

The Pittsburgh DSA does a lot of work around crisis pregnancy centers. Some of their materials are local-center-specific but you might find some way to use either this short and sweet flyer or some of the information from this one.
posted by Stacey at 5:40 AM on May 31, 2019 [4 favorites]


The Chiaroscuro Foundation is led, managed and advised by a small community of successful scholars, businessmen and entrepreneurs deeply committed to furthering the common good.

I'll give you three guesses to figure out the gender and ethnic background of every single one of the people profiled on that web page.
posted by Western Infidels at 8:15 AM on May 31, 2019 [4 favorites]


Deliberately sabotaging contraception should be prosecuted as conduct engendering life.

I'm sorry if I'm missing something, but - engendering? Not endangering? I'd have said endangering, as in conduct endangering life.
posted by bile and syntax at 10:13 AM on May 31, 2019


About to time to forego HIPAA and release the name of every right-wing woman who's "only moral abortion is her own." These people will never play fair. They never have, and never will.
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 2:24 PM on May 31, 2019


"A popular women’s health and fertility app sows doubt about birth control, features claims from medical advisers who are not licensed to practice in the US, ..."

"Two of the app’s medical advisers are not licensed to practice in the US and are also closely tied to a Catholic university in Santiago, Chile"

"When asked whether the medical advisers to the Femm app are licensed to practice medicine in New York or the United States, Halpine said: “No.” She added the advisers are primarily in Chile."
Chile has a well-functioning, well-organised and effectively governed health system that plainly generates far better health outcomes than the United States. Judged on a global level the state systems for licencing physicians are pretty easily seen as a collection of cautionary tales, and certainly has not been some kind of global gold standard for some time. The idea that physicians around the world must be licenced in any US state, much less one specific state, to be eligable to contribute to generalized medical advice for a global audience is just ...bizarre.. when you actually think about it.

Looking through their website, it is pretty clear that the health advice provided by FEMM does not represent anything close to the global consensus on a number of different critical issues. However, maybe leaning this hard on anti-foreigner bigotry in a way that is pretty difficult to not see as reflecting an early 20th century style of anti-Catholic racism could only hope to undermine any real point the authors hope to make?
posted by Blasdelb at 6:25 AM on June 2, 2019


Deliberately sabotaging contraception should be prosecuted as conduct engendering life.

I'm sorry if I'm missing something, but - engendering? Not endangering? I'd have said endangering, as in conduct endangering life.


"Engendering life," as in giving rise to the potential life of a child via unwanted pregnancy. I think it's meant to be a play on words--"engendering life" sounds very much like the more common phrase "endangering life," but is an equally undesirable outcome even if there is no physical danger to the mother's life. She didn't want a potential life to be engendered in her body.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 11:35 AM on June 2, 2019


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