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Facebook slowly pulls some of the false ads on PrEP they’ve been running

Facebook slowly pulls some of the false ads on PrEP they’ve been running
Mark ZuckerbergPhoto: via Facebook

Last month, Facebook claimed that ads questioning the safety of PrEP would continue to run as long as they were still verifiable by their third-party fact checking partners. The social network may have begun to change their tune in the new year, as some of those ads have disappeared, according to several reports.

Following Facebook’s non-committal response to them – and the inability to reach the company’s fact checkers – LGBTQ organizations and activists wrote an open letter to the company, ran by CEO and Founder Mark Zuckerberg. “Use of PrEP, especially by men sexually active with other men, is viewed as critical to the drive to end AIDS as an epidemic,” Gay City News reports.

Related: Instagram rejected an ad for HIV meds because the topic is ‘too political’

From our report in December:

The ads started appearing on Facebook several months ago, and they say that Truvada – the drug approved for use as PrEP seven years ago – has significant side effects for kidneys and bones…the ads are making people doubt the safety of PrEP.

The ads seek participants in lawsuits being filed by personal injury attorneys across the country against Gilead, the company that produces Truvada. The lawsuits claim that Gilead withheld Descovy – a new drug approved for use as PrEP this year – because they wanted to make more money from Truvada…public health officials have said that the differences are not significant for most people…

What can be a problem with Truvada, though, is when it’s used in combination with other medications to treat people who already have HIV. GLAAD and other organizations say that the distinction is fundamental, and by implying that PrEP is unsafe, the ads are putting people’s health at risk.

While the organizations have tried to get Facebook to pull the ads, Facebook has kept them, saying that they have not been rated untrue by their third-party fact checkers. GLAAD said that they tried to get in touch with the third party fact checkers, including the Associated Press, but they didn’t get a response.

Now over 50 LGBTQ, HIV, and public health organizations have signed an open letter urging Facebook to pull the ads.

Following a month of outlash, though, Facebook confirmed separately to Gay City News and The Washington Post that “the company ultimately decided to remove certain ads.” Facebook also “claims to be in close contact with LGBTQ groups and is planning to issue a more formal response to advocates in the coming days,” according to their reports, but wouldn’t say which ads it has removed or plans to remove.

As the Post writes, this “illustrates Facebook’s persistent struggle to police its service, which reaches 2 billion people globally, and prevent the real-time spread of harmful posts, photos, ads and other troubling content.” That struggle has led to Zuckerberg and his employees to provide testimony to the United States Congress on several occasions over the last few years.

“The question remains — why is Facebook taking money from these ambulance-chasing law firms for ads that are helping the spread of HIV?” PrEP4All Collaboration co-founder Peter Staley wrote in a statement.

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