Update (7/27/20): Following Media Matters’ reporting, Facebook removed some posts promoting conversion therapy from Restored Hope Network and International Federation for Therapeutic and Counselling Choice. However, others are still up on the platform.
On July 10, Facebook and Instagram announced a policy banning posts that “advertise or promote” the dangerous anti-LGBTQ practice of conversion therapy. Facebook pages for pro-conversion therapy groups Voice of the Voiceless, Restored Hope Network, and International Federation for Therapeutic and Counselling Choice would be a good place for the platform to start.
According to CNN, under the new policy, the platforms “will also stop recommending content related to conversion therapy, such as testimonials to its efficacy or posts in praise of or in support of the practice, except those in a legislative context.” A spokesperson for Instagram said of the move, “We don't allow attacks against people based on sexual orientation or gender identity and are updating our policies to ban the promotion of conversion therapy services.” Facebook and Instagram banned advertisements promoting the practice earlier this year.
Conversion therapy -- which is sometimes called reparative therapy, restorative therapy, or sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE) -- is a harmful practice that seeks to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of LGBTQ people. It includes a range of practices, from talk therapy-like sessions to shock and aversion treatments, all of which have been thoroughly discredited and found to be harmful; major medical associations agree that sexuality and gender identity cannot be forcibly changed. According to the American Psychological Association, negative side effects of conversion therapy can include anger, anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation. Furthermore, research from The Trevor Project found that 28% of LGBTQ youth who have undergone conversion therapy have attempted suicide -- more than twice the rate of those who did not experience the dangerous practice.
If Facebook is serious about enforcing its new rule, it should begin by removing these three pages that regularly promote conversion therapy in posts and falsely suggest that it is effective: Voice of the Voiceless, Restored Hope Network, and International Federation for Therapeutic and Counselling Choice.
Voice of the Voiceless
Voice of the Voiceless (VoV) is a pro-conversion therapy group with a Facebook page that regularly promotes the practice, appearing to be in violation of Facebook’s new guidelines.
According to the Facebook page, “VoV is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that amplifies the voices of exLGBT and helps seekers in reconciling faith, behaviors, and identity.” VoV was founded in part by conversion therapist and so-called “ex-gay” activist Christopher Doyle, who has also been involved with other pro-conversion therapy groups. Doyle and his groups have worked around the country to kill measures that would protect LGBTQ youth from conversion therapy, and they have also been associated with ADF.
VoV’s Facebook page has posted testimony from people claiming conversion therapy is effective or who have otherwise claimed to have changed their sexual orientation. It has also highlighted the work of conversion therapists and programs, as well as pro-conversion therapy conferences and webinars.
Here are some of the posts on VoV’s page that may violate Facebook’s new policy banning content promoting conversion therapy:
Restored Hope Network
The Restored Hope Network is a coalition of associated ministries around the country that promote and practice conversion therapy. The group says it rejects the term “conversion therapy” but promotes the practice instead using euphemisms like “change allowing counseling.” The group has an active Facebook page that regularly shares posts supporting the practice.
The page’s mission statement says the group is “dedicated to restoring hope to those broken by sexual and relational sin especially those impacted by homosexuality.” Restored Hope Network also hosts annual conferences around the country about conversion therapy.
On July 14, the group’s Facebook page responded to the platform’s ban on conversion therapy content by asking for supporters to give the group their contact information for use in the event that Facebook removed the page.
The page has posted testimonies of people who claim to have changed their sexual orientation or gender identity. It has also promoted conversion therapy and “ex-gay” retreats, conferences, and webinars, as well as a conversion therapy website that claims to equip “the church to redemptively minister to those who are trapped in sexual sin and brokenness.”
Here are some posts on Restored Hope Network’s page that may violate Facebook’s new policy banning content that promotes conversion therapy:
International Federation for Therapeutic and Counselling Choice
International Federation for Therapeutic and Counselling Choice (IFTCC) is a worldwide network of conversion therapy practitioners. According to its website, the group was “set up to offer people high-quality, professional and discreet support,” and it exists “to help anyone experiencing unwanted relational and sexual behaviours, attractions and patterns.” Its Facebook page uses similar language to promote conversion therapy, claiming that IFTCC “exists to support dedicated providers of services to individuals seeking change of their unwanted relational and sexual behaviours, attractions and patterns.”
On Facebook, IFTCC’s page has quoted conversion therapy practitioner Julie Hamilton and shared a quote from someone who claims they “do not want to engage in the gay life anymore,” with IFTCC writing, “People change and that’s a fact!” It has also shared several posts that suggest people are not innately LGBTQ.
Here are some posts on IFTCC’s page that appear to violate Facebook’s new policy banning content promoting conversion therapy: