How do I get an offensive advertisement taken down at my local mall?
September 21, 2018 5:27 AM   Subscribe

The mall near me has these large display boards for local businesses to advertise. One of them is an organization called “ABBA pregnancy resource center”an anti-abortion organization and the ad says “pregnant? Lost? Come to us for answers” and on first read appears to provide legit prenatal care. Last august, 13 months ago, I complained to the mall under the “contact us” form on their website, and made a Facebook post asking other local people to do the same. I went back to the mall yesterday and it’s still there. What else can I do ?

I am not very technically literate - the mall doesn’t have Instagram and I can’t post on their Facebook page (only they can, it appears).
posted by pintapicasso to Human Relations (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Even here in California those hypocritical demons are allowed to exist and lie with impunity. I'm not sure there is a solution. It seems like you've done what you could. The next step would be getting people together and protesting visibly, or just staying near their location, handing out flyers with info for ACTUAL help with pregnancy concerns and the like. The only other option I see is getting politically involved.
posted by deadwater at 6:03 AM on September 21, 2018 [6 favorites]

(IANAL) Both the mall owners and this outfit have First Amendment free speech rights based on various court decisions. So any formal legal challenge would likely fail on that basis, because "misleading at first glance" speech is still free speech; they are not slandering anyone, and they probably don't charge for services so there is no consumer fraud going on. When anyone chooses to talk with them, they make it clear enough what they do and do not offer. And short of a legal challenge, neither the mall nor this group is likely to budge, no matter what you do or say.
posted by beagle at 6:22 AM on September 21, 2018 [11 favorites]

If the mall is getting paid to allow them to advertise, they are not likely to stop doing that based on a complaint. It's also possible that whomever is in charge of making decisions at the mall is on board with their mission, and if that's the case it's even less likely that you could get the advertisement removed. However, you can try to help make women in the area more aware of their options.

If the ads are free, help put up an ad for an organization that does offer serious prenatal services.

You can try education - spreading the word (perhaps via Facebook) about what services this place really does provide, what it does and doesn't do. If they have pages on Yelp or other review sites, that's another option.

If you team up with some technically gifted folk, you could set up a website that will come up when people google the name of the organization. This would require search engine optimization.

Or a "pregnancy help" site (or page on FB) with a list of resources in your city. In that case you don't necessarily have to bring them up at all, or only minimally. Like:

Preg Org 1 - Prenatal care, lab work, ultrasounds, OB exams etc etc ...
ABBA - Religion-based counseling against abortion

I would word things in a fact-based way to keep your audience wide. Not "THEY ARE LIARS" but "ABBA does not offer pre-natal care. For pre-natal care you can visit these organizations .... etc."
posted by bunderful at 6:24 AM on September 21, 2018 [9 favorites]

If it were me, and this will not be the right path for everyone, I'd be making stickers that said "Are you looking for sensible medical device, prenatal care, or maybe an abortion? Call your local Planned Parenthood at 207-xxx-xxxx" and putting them in the vicinity of this offensive ad. Note: may be technically against the law.
posted by jessamyn at 7:12 AM on September 21, 2018 [44 favorites]

You could always buy another ad on the same display board.
posted by kevinbelt at 7:29 AM on September 21, 2018 [6 favorites]

I agree there is no legal basis to say the mall or the group shouldn't be allowed (legally) to display the sign. However, if you make clear to the mall that you and other people find the sign offensive, that could pressure them to remove the sign as too controversial/political, which would also be legal for the mall to do. This type of pressure, however, needs to be sustained and loud - not a complaint here or there (i.e., a complaint and a follow-up more than a year later is not going to register.)
posted by Mid at 7:35 AM on September 21, 2018 [3 favorites]

Expose Fake Clinics and Expose Fake Clincs Pgh have some info and resources for this.
posted by clavicle at 7:47 AM on September 21, 2018 [6 favorites]

There's always vandalism. A nice, bright, palm-sized sticker with "SCAM" in large letters would be easy to discreetly slap on as you walk by.

These awful things are uniquitous, though. They boil my blood as well, but the real solution here would be a regulatory or legislative one. As with so many things, your most impactful option is to vote, write your representatives, and donate to organizations that oppose this kind of bullshit.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 8:11 AM on September 21, 2018 [15 favorites]

I’m going to swim upstream here. This doesn’t seem like a good use of your time and resources. You, like all of us, have limited attention and financial resources. And you, like all of us, have a moral obligation to direct those resources to effectuate the most positive change in the world that you can (without burning yourself out, etc.). Trying to address one ad on one mall billboard for one crisis pregnancy center that you do not assert is actually lying to women about abortion (and may just be refusing to provide info about it) does not seem like the highest and best use of your limited resources. Volunteering at an actual CPC that provides with women with their full set of options, or affirmatively being there for women in your life who have had abortions, or lobbying your Congressperson—those seem like more effective uses of your time. But if you do want to do this, bunderful has some truly wonderful ideas.
posted by suncages at 8:16 AM on September 21, 2018 [6 favorites]

[Folks, this is AskMe - answer the question, don't debate the premise. Thanks.]
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 9:04 AM on September 21, 2018 [6 favorites]

In order to have any legal merit for taking an ad down you have to be able to show that it is not what it seems to be. There is no indication thus far that this ad isn't offering exactly what it deems to be.

If you're willing to go through the trouble, set up an appointment with them, go undercover with a recording device and see if you can catch them in a lie. If they don't lie they haven't done anything wrong and you can still do nothing. If they do lie you can now use your proof to have the ads taken down.
posted by fantasticness at 9:36 AM on September 21, 2018

You can fb make posts and tag the mall and the sketchy adoption front place, that way they would come up on searches. I think twitter might be good for this as well, tag and tweet that the adoption agency front aka pregnancy center is full of shit, prob. put it better than that, but you get my drift. And I love the idea of putting a sticker on their fake as hell poster, however w/today’s surveillence and it being private property w/ security people able to see almost everything, you could get in trouble, esp if the mall mgmt is in favor of baby snatching liars like this group. Putting a piece of paper close to but not touching the offending lies poster w/real helpful info is a great idea as well. That could actually help a woman in need.
posted by RichardHenryYarbo at 9:46 AM on September 21, 2018

Yes, most attempts to prevent this kind of misleading advertising have been (appallingly) upheld on free speech grounds because the "services" are free, so it's deemed non-commercial. If you want this ad pulled, you're going to have to make it expensive for the mall to keep it there. That means public complaints, rallying a group around you, maybe protesting there...I'm not sure you'll be able to summon the resources to get an ad bounced, but if you want it gone, that's what you'll have to do.
posted by praemunire at 12:40 PM on September 21, 2018

Thanks everyone, great advice and ideas here.
posted by pintapicasso at 6:36 PM on September 21, 2018

Just for the sake of being clear, these advertisements are within the mall, as opposed to being outside, visible to any traffic or passersby?

The reason I ask is, there were some terrible billboards up recently (for a movie); a couple of friends complained to the local councilman and his office contacted the billboard company and they were removed. But I suppose the councilman was able to make the argument that the billboards are located on public roads and constituents can't always avoid them (and there were more than one), whereas if the advertising is contained within private property there's not much to be done. It couldn't hurt to call and ask though. I wonder if your local council person would refer you to a state office that deals with fraud? Consumer fraud maybe?

Let us know if you get anywhere with it.
posted by vignettist at 8:31 PM on September 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

Make a sticker or two that looks like it would be part of the advertisement. This would be for a different phone number and website. Ones that you control. You could have a recording explaining the service is a scam. I would not mention planned parenthood to avoid getting them in trouble. Be sure to take precautions so that the website and phone number cannot be traced to you.
posted by Sophont at 1:34 AM on September 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

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