December 11, 2019
The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation is calling on Facebook to remove, and address, misleading advertisements about the HIV prevention drug PrEP from its social networks.
In an open letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg this week, GLAAD called Facebook's allowance of targeted ads from law firms "misinformation" that "puts real people's lives in imminent danger."
The ads in question are targeting gay and bisexual men who use PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis), sold under the brand Truvada. according to GLAAD. The ads attempt to convince the men to join a lawsuit claiming PrEP has caused harmful side effects.
Here's an example of the advertisements in question, as seen on Facebook timelines:
The advertisements have also been seen on Instagram users' timelines, according to GLAAD's letter.
A Facebook representative told Business Insider that the ads did not violate its policies, "nor have they been rated false by third-party fact-checkers." The representative also said the social network was "examining ways to improve."
During congressional testimony earlier this year, Zuckerberg was pressed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) over Facebook's decision to allow political ads, even misleading ones, on its platforms. Zuckerberg has said, repeatedly, that he doesn't believe tech companies like Facebook should be determining who is allowed to run ads and who isn't, even if some of the ads contain lies.
In September, Facebook announced it was taking added steps to prevent the spread of vaccine misinformation with a new pop-up window directing users towards the CDC's website.
In this case, GLAAD argued in its open letter, the law firms' advertisements are "scaring away at-risk HIV negative people from the leading drug that blocks HIV infections."
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, PrEP is "highly effective" in preventing HIV from sex or injection drug use when taken daily, reducing the risk of getting HIV from sex by 99%, and reducing the risk of getting HIV from injection drugs by roughly 74%.
GLAAD's letter, which is co-signed by more than 50 LGBTQ+ advocacy groups, calls for Zuckerberg and Facebook to remove the ads, be transparent with users on the company's advertising policy regarding misinformation, and review its policies to prevent the spread of false or misleading public health statements.