Facebook refuses PrEP awareness ad because it's "too political"

Facebook has rejected a request to run an Instagram ad campaign raising awareness of PrEP among the Asian and Pacific Island community.

Prep ad created by Apicha

An Instagram ad campaign promoting awareness of PrEP among the Asian and Pacific Island community has been rejected by Facebook because it was “too political.” Apicha Community Health Centre, a primary care group in New York City offering a variety of medical services, attempted to create the ad campaign but was refused because the centre “hadn’t been authorised to run ads about social issues, elections or politics.”

In an interview with Vice, Apicha’s Director of Grants and Communications, Phillip Miner, stated, “They said the copy was the problem but were unable to tell us what part of the copy was too political. It’s incredibly frustrating to encounter these sort of roadblocks.”

Apicha Community Health Center had hoped that the campaign could create public awareness about PrEP which specifically targeted the API community. They had received funding from the New York State Department of Health’s AIDS Institute as part of the Institute’s PrEP Aware initiative. 

Campaign posters and interviews by queer API artists on stigma and representation are currently viewable on the Apicha Instagram account. Though there was no issue with uploading the posts, Instagram rejected their attempts to create an ad campaign, which would have meant the content reached a larger demographic. 

Miner further stated during the Vice interview, “Social media platforms are the easiest way for us to reach [the communities we’re trying to reach]. To have social media platforms create these barriers when government entities have given us the resources to reach communities at risk is really hindering the national goal of ending the HIV epidemic.”

Previously, the PrEP Aware campaign had been rejected by Twitter due to a supposed breach of the platform’s adult content policies. However, the rejection was successfully appealed. A spokesperson for Twitter told Vice,  “Upon further review, we’ve determined that the ad is in compliance [with our Adult Sexual Content policy] and have allowed it to run.”

Speaking to PinkNews, Facebook said the ad was rejected because Apicha had not completed the user verification process. 

In relation to the reasoning, Facebook said, “We’ve had a policy for some time that requires US advertisers running ads about social issues, elections or politics to complete an ad authorisation process before they can run ads targeted to people in the US. We have this policy to ensure that we prevent foreign interference in elections and provide more information about who is behind ads on Facebook. Apicha had not completed the authorisation process, which meant some of their ads were rejected.”

Miner spoke to Vice about the reasoning behind this, explaining that one of their staff members uses a name on Facebook which does not match their government ID for undisclosed reasons. 

On October 23rd, U.S Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez heavily critiqued Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s newly introduced policy to allow political ads to run lies. During the House of Representatives financial services committee hearing, Ocasio-Cortez said, “So, you won’t take down lies or you will take down lies? I think that’s just a pretty simple yes or no.”

In response to the criticism, Zuckerberg said, “I just think that in a democracy people should be able to see for themselves what politicians are saying.”

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