ASPS Challenges Big Tech Censorship of Gender Affirming Care
Upon discovering a troubling trend of Facebook and Instagram censoring advertisements related to gender affirming care, ASPS put the strength of its advocacy behind efforts to challenge the tech giants and advocate for plastic surgeons and transgender individuals.
ASPS first learned that Facebook and Instagram were censoring gender affirming care advertisements after it was brought to the Society's attention by PlastyPAC's Board of Governors Chair, Keith Blechman, MD. As a Top Surgery Specialist practicing in Manhattan, Dr. Blechman's practice specializes in procedures for male to female, female to male and gender non-binary patients. When attempting to advertise his practice's gender affirming procedures, he discovered that his ads were being blocked because the social media platforms viewed the content of the ads to be "political advertising." The Society has subsequently heard similar reports from other members regarding advertisements being banned by Facebook and Instagram.
ASPS pushes back
ASPS's advocacy leaders sent, in conjunction with the Society's Social Media Subcommittee, comments to Facebook and Instagram articulating concerns with the tech giants' censorship of content related to gender affirming care. Instagram is owned by Facebook and both outlets utilize the same advertising platform.
In a letter to Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, and COO, Sheryl Sandberg, the Society outlined concerns with recent reports of censorship and, in some cases, disabling of physician members' accounts over advertisements and posts regarding gender affirming care.
In the letter, ASPS stressed that the delivery of gender affirming care is not a political issue, but rather a health care issue – "Gender dysphoria is a medical diagnosis, not a political choice." The Society's comments also emphasized that plastic surgery is "an important step in aligning [individuals with gender dysphoria's] bodies with whom they know themselves to be."
The comments also underscored the risks associated with the censorship of surgeons who provide gender affirming care. Specifically, reducing the likelihood that transgender patients will find their way to critical therapeutic interventions, and increasing the risk of suicide within this patient population as a result.
ASPS concluded the letter by urging Facebook's leaders to review the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH)'s Standards of Care publication to "better understand the importance and role of gender affirming care in the US healthcare system."
Advocating for medically necessary care
While recent reports of Facebook's censorship of surgeons' advertisements are troubling, they are indicative of broader efforts to oppose or limit gender affirming care.
ASPS firmly believes that plastic surgery services can help gender dysphoria patients align their bodies with whom they know themselves to be and improve their overall mental health and well-being. The Society will continue its efforts to advocate for full access to medically necessary transition care and stand up to those who oppose it – from the board rooms of big tech to Capitol Hill.