Facebook sorry for 'disturbing' disabled comment

By Shiona McCallum
Newsbeat reporter

  • Published
Photo of Vicky BalchImage source, PA Wire
Image caption,
Vicky Balch had her leg amputated after being injured in the Alton Towers rollercoaster crash in 2015

Facebook has apologised to a disability rights activist after he was told people might find images of disabled people "disturbing".

Simon Sansome, who runs Ability Access, discovered Facebook had blocked his page from being shared with new users.

Facebook says its employee gave Simon incorrect information.

Instead, it says his page was blocked for featuring a naked picture of Vicky Balch, who was injured in the Alton Towers rollercoaster crash in 2015.

Simon spoke to a Facebook employee over the phone to find out why his page was no longer allowed to be shared.

He told Radio 1 Newsbeat that he "could not believe what was happening" when he was told people might find it "disturbing" to see pictures of disabled people on their feeds.

So he started recording the conversation.

Image source, PA Wire
Image caption,
Five people were seriously injured when the Smiler ride crashed

"If it wasn't recorded, nobody would have believed it," he said.

The rollercoaster crash at Alton Towers in 2015 left Vicky Balch injured and needing to have her right leg amputated.

"That photo of Vicky has been on our page for a number of years now, and it's a fantastic photo which is empowering women and people with disabilities.

"It's a picture that's been widely shared on social media, in newspapers and celebrated by our disabled community."

Vicky chose not to speak to us for this article, but when the pictures first came out following her 21st birthday in 2016, she said they made her feel "amazing".

Image source, Andrew Wood Photography
Image caption,
Vicky said the pictures she had taken for her 21st birthday helped boost her confidence

Facebook told Radio 1 Newsbeat: "What Mr Sansome was told is incorrect and should not have been said - and we've apologised unreservedly for that."

The tech giant said that Simon's post was rejected for "depicting adult content, as there is a partially covered topless female in the video".

Facebook explained that because the post in question was an advert, it was subject to stricter standards than normal posts.

"If Mr Sansome is able to remove this particular image from the video, the advert would be approved and allowed to run," it added.

Simon said he has no intention of removing the image.

"It is a picture of a wonderful, brave woman showing off her disability," he said.

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