September 28, 2020 The Newspaper Serving LGBT Los Angeles

Open Letter to FB Demands Removal of “Factually Inaccurate” Lawsuit Ads Attacking HIV Medication

Dozens of LGBTQ+, HIV and public health organizations have signed an open letter calling on Facebook to remove law firm ads that promote “factually inaccurate” side effects of HIV-prevention medication Truvada, a type of PrEP prescription. 

“The signers of this letter, including members of Facebook’s LGBTQ Network of Support, request that Facebook and Instagram remove the advertisements and also publicly address the misinformation that the platforms allowed to spread,” the letter states.

Various law firms used the social media platform’s targeting advertising capabilities to recruit LGBTQ+ med for a class-action lawsuit against Gilead Science, the manufacturer of Truvada. 

“This issue goes beyond misinformation, as it puts real people’s lives in imminent danger,” the letter states. “The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that when taken daily, PrEP is highly effective for preventing HIV from sex or injection drug use.” 

Screenshot courtesy GLAAD

The open letter states that lawsuit advertised claims bone density and kidney issues, despite numerous studies supporting the safety of these preventative drugs. According to the CDC, PrEP reduces the risk of contracting HIV from sex by 99% when taken correctly. 

“By allowing these advertisements to persist on their platforms, Facebook and Instagram are convincing at-risk individuals to avoid PrEP, invariably leading to avoidable HIV infections,” the letter states. “You are harming public health.”

NBC News reported that a Facebook spokesperson said that the company values its “work with LGBTQ groups” and both welcomes and seeks out the community’s input.    

“While these ads do not violate our ad policies nor have they been rated false by third-party fact-checkers, we’re always examining ways to improve and help these key groups better understand how we apply our policies,” the spokesperson wrote, according to NMC News.

The open letter states that the signers reached out to Facebook about the advertisements, but an agreement could not be reached.

“Given the history of how our community was met by deadly indifference during the early years of the AIDS crisis, the refusal to take action is deeply concerning,” the letter states. Since a resolution was not reached, immediate action must be taken by Facebook to ameliorate the harm which has already been caused to those who may be seeking preventative treatment against HIV.

The co-signatories of the open letter listed the following demands:

  • Facebook and Instagram immediately remove the advertisements outlined above that are harming public health.
  • Facebook and Instagram be transparent with users and the LGBTQ community on their advertising policy around misinformation which states that “in certain circumstances” Facebook prohibits ads that include “claims debunked by organizations with particular expertise.”
  • Facebook commits to a review and potential update of current advertising policies to prevent false or misleading public health statements from reaching users.

Co-signers of the December 9 open letter included GLAAD, APLA Health, the Trevor Project and dozens more. To read the full open letter, click HERE

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