Oversight Board upholds Meta's decisions in Fruit Juice Diet cases
The Oversight Board has upheld Meta’s decisions to keep up two posts in which a woman shares her first-hand experience of a fruit juice-only diet. The Board agrees that neither violate Facebook’s Suicide and Self-Injury Community Standard because they do not “provide instructions for drastic and unhealthy weight loss,” nor do they “promote” or “encourage” eating disorders. However, since both pages involved in these two cases were part of Meta’s Partner Monetization Program, the Board recommends that the company restrict “extreme and harmful diet-related content” in its Content Monetization policies.
About the cases
Between late 2022 and early 2023, two videos were posted to the same Facebook page, described as featuring content on life, culture and food in Thailand. In both, a woman is interviewed by a man about her experience of following a diet consisting only of fruit juice. The conversations take place in Italian.
In the first video, the woman says she has experienced increased mental focus, improved skin and bowel movement, happiness and a “feeling of lightness” since starting the diet, while she also shares that she previously suffered from skin problems and swollen legs. She brings up the issue of anorexia but states her weight has normalized, after she initially lost more than 10 kilograms (22 pounds) due to her dietary changes. Around five months later, the man interviews the woman again in a second video, asking how she feels almost a year into observing this fruit juice-only diet. She responds by saying she looks young for her age, that she has not lost any more weight except for “four kilos of impurities,” and she encourages him to try the diet. She also states she will become a “fruitarian” upon breaking her fast, but that she is thinking about starting a “pranic journey,” which, according to her, means living “on energy” in place of eating or drinking regularly.
Between them, the posts were viewed more than 2,000,000 times and received over 15,000 comments. The videos share details of the woman’s Facebook page, which experienced a significant increase in interactions following the second post.
After both posts were reported multiple times for violating Facebook’s Suicide and Self-Injury Community Standard, and following human review that assessed the content as non-violating, they remained on Facebook. A separate user in each case then appealed Meta’s decision to the Board.
Both the content creator’s Facebook page on which the two videos were posted and the Facebook page of the woman shown in the videos are part of Meta’s Partner Monetization Program. This means the content creator and presumably the woman being interviewed earn money from posts on their pages, when Meta displays ads on their content. For this to happen, the pages would have passed an eligibility check and the content would have had to comply with both Meta’s Community Standards and its Content Monetization policies. Within its Content Monetization policies, Meta prohibits certain categories from being monetized on its platforms, even if they do not violate the Community Standards.
The Board finds that neither of these posts violate the Suicide and Self-Injury Community Standard because they do not provide “instructions for drastic and unhealthy weight loss when shared together with terms associated with eating disorders,” and do not “promote, encourage, coordinate, or provide instructions for eating disorders.” While the Board notes a fruit juice-only diet can cover eating practices with different health consequences, depending on its duration and intensity, the videos did not include any eating disorder signal or reference in the sense required to violate Meta’s rules. Even the woman’s passing mention of a diet-related “pranic journey” – which the Board understands to be an extreme “breatharian” diet, considered medically dangerous by experts – was descriptive in nature, without any mention of weight.
While Meta’s platforms should continue to be spaces in which users can share their lifestyle and diet experiences, the Board equally recognizes that content permissible under the Suicide and Self-Injury Community Standard may contribute to harm, even if it does not meet the threshold for removal. These harms could be particularly severe for some users, with adolescents, especially adolescent women and girls, vulnerable to developing an eating disorder. In this case, the Board finds the content in these videos promotes eating practices that may be dangerous in some circumstances.
The Board also notes that despite the generally broad scope of Meta’s Content Monetization policies, content relating to eating practices, including extreme and harmful diet-related content, is not subject to reduced or restricted monetization. As such, the Board agrees that both videos do not violate these policies. However, the Board recommends that Meta should amend these policies to better meet its human rights responsibilities, given the research showing that users, especially adolescents, are vulnerable to harmful diet-related content.
The majority of the Board considers the omission of “extreme and harmful diet-related content” as a restricted category in Meta’s Content Monetization policies a conspicuous and concerning one. With health and communications experts noting the ability of influencers to use first-hand narration styles to secure high engagement with their content – coupled with the ubiquity of wellness influencers – it is important that Meta should not provide financial benefits to create this type of content. For a minority of the Board, since demonetization may negatively impact expression on these issues, Meta should explore whether demonetization is the least intrusive means of respecting the rights of vulnerable users.
For a separate minority of Board Members, demonetization is necessary but not sufficient; they find that Meta should additionally restrict extreme and harmful diet-related content to adults over the age of 18, and explore other measures such as putting a label on the content, to include reliable information on the health risks of eating disorders.
The Oversight Board’s decision
The Oversight Board upholds Meta’s decisions to leave up the two posts.
The Board recommends that Meta:
- Restrict extreme and harmful diet-related content in its Content Monetization Policies to avoid creating financial incentives for influential users to create harmful content.
For further information
To read the full decision, click here.
To read a synopsis of public comments for this case, please click the attachment below.