After a fervent outcry from LGBTQ and HIV activists, Facebook has begun removing misleading ads about PrEP, an FDA-approved prevention drug that when practiced routinely makes it virtually impossible to contract HIV.
The ads were mainly affiliated with personal injury lawyers and encouraged social media users to believe that PrEP was linked to severe bone and kidney damage.
Activists across the country fought against these ads, pointing to several studies that prove PrEP is not only safe, but effective, and an important tool for communities most at risk of contracting HIV.
Though the social media company declined to disable these ads at first, last week it began to label some of the ads as rule violations in its archive, which limits their visibility.
An internal investigation by third-party fact checkers showed that these ads were indeed misleading, according to an email sent to LGBT groups from those fact checkers, reports The Washington Post.
Advocates have been placing pressure on Facebook for a while now, and while it’s great that the company is responding in an ethical way, questions are still being raised about what Facebook’s policies will be in the future in regards to similar misleading ads.
“After a review, our independent fact-checking partners have determined some of the ads in question mislead people about the effects of Truvada," said Facebook spokesperson Devon Kearns, referring to one of two FDA-approved drugs that can be used as PrEP (the other is Descovy). "As a result we have rejected these ads and they can no longer run on Facebook.”
“The removal of select ads is a strong first step given the findings of Facebook’s own fact-checking agency and the dozens of organizations that spoke out," added Sarah Kate Ellis, the leader of GLAAD. “The time is now for Facebook to take action on other very similar ads which target at-risk community members with misleading and inaccurate claims about PrEP and HIV prevention.”
Facebook is allowing entities to target misleading and false ads about HIV prevention drugs to LGBTQ+ communities and others. This can have serious public health consequences. Facebook needs to put the safety of its users above its own advertising profits. https://t.co/J0TmEuqBuo
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) December 10, 2019