Facebook yanked ads trolling for HIV drug plaintiffs after LGBTQ, public health and HIV/AIDS prevention advocates argued the law firm promos were not only misleading but also endangering public health.
More than 50 groups co-signed a letter urging the social media giant to pull the ads from its Facebook and Instagram platforms and address the misinformation it was spreading.
The law firm ads encouraged patients using Gilead Science’s Truvada to reduce the risk of contracting HIV—so-called pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP)—to join personal injury lawsuits over alleged side effects.
The letter triggered widespread headlines, and Facebook decided to remove some of the ads after an independent fact-checking review found them misleading.
Gilead had applauded the organizations standing up for their communities. “We join calls to have any misleading advertisements related to Gilead’s HIV medications removed from Facebook,” Gilead SVP Amy Flood said in a December statement to FiercePharma.
According to the latest news reports, LGBTQ organizations led by GLAAD originally notified Facebook of the problematic ads in September. It wasn’t until after an open letter was published in December and more widespread media coverage began that Facebook decided to call in the independent fact-checker, according to the Washington Post.
In an assessment published December 24, Facebook fact-checking partner Science Feedback concluded that the ad overstated the risks in taking Truvada for PrEP.
Independent fact-checkers found “some of the ads in question mislead people about the effects of Truvada,” a Facebook spokeswoman told the Washington Post, and added that “as a result, we have rejected these ads and they can no longer run on Facebook.”
GLAAD said the removal of some of the ads is “a strong first step.” However, the group’s president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis also called on Facebook to go further and “take action on other very similar ads which target at-risk community members with misleading and inaccurate claims about PrEP and HIV prevention.”