Facebook is getting major flack for targeting blood donation ads at one group that still cannot legally donate blood in the United States: gay and bisexual men.
As CNBC News reports, the social media platform implemented its Blood Donation feature internationally in 2017. The campaign allows users to sign up for notifications whenever nearby blood donation centers are in need of donors. Last month, the Blood Donation feature made its debut stateside, and while Facebook's intentions are good, gay and bisexual men in America claim the campaign serves as a painful reminder of the fact that men who regularly have sex with other men (MSM) can't donate blood even in 2019.
In the wake of the AIDS crisis of the 1980s, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) instituted a ban on MSM and transgender people donating blood across the board in 1983, designating queer people as "high risk" donation candidates. That rule was updated to a "lifetime ban" in '92 and again revisited in 2015, when the FDA ruled that MSM could donate blood, but only after abstaining from gay sex for a full year.
Aaron Endré, a gay man from San Francisco, told the news outlet that he notes he's interested in other men on his profile and regularly likes LGBTQ-interest content on Facebook, so the platform's algorithm is ostensibly aware of his sexual orientation. Yet Endré claims he receives notifications to donate blood from Facebook "every few days" despite attempts to mute them.
"On Facebook’s part, this seems tone deaf," he told CNBC News.
Mark Milleville, another queer Californian, concurred: "I’m angry that donating blood is still an issue for men who have sex with men and that Facebook is rubbing it in my face."
In a statement, reps from Facebook confirmed that the platform isn't "[targeting] people based on their sexual orientation or their ability to donate blood," and that the feature is simply designed to address blood bank shortages around the country.
Notably, the U.S. isn't the only country with outdated blood donation laws still on the books. Some 20 nations around the world, including Ireland, Australia, and France, also have harsh blood donor rules that largely prohibit gay and bisexual men from participating.
However, attitudes appear to be slowly changing. Earlier this summer, the French government announced that it would be easing up its similarly anti-LGBTQ blood donation restrictions in an effort to treat MSM like any other donors.
Just a few weeks ago, one particularly determined gay man from Virginia even donated a kidney to protest America's antiquated blood donation laws.