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“Blocking” and “Filtering”: a Commentary on Mobile Technology, Racism, and the Sexual Networks of Young Black MSM (YBMSM)


While research investigates the role and influence of geo-social networking (GSN) applications on HIV, less is known about the impact of GSN functions on disease transmission. In our formative research on young Black men who have sex with men’s (YBMSM) technology use patterns and preferences for a smartphone-based HIV prevention intervention, we found that study participants used GSN “block” and “filter” functions as protective mechanisms against racism and racial sexual discrimination. Yet, we suggest that these functions may unintentionally create restrictive sexual networks that likely increase their risk for disease transmission. As such, we contend that attention to the unintended effects of these protective mechanisms against racism on GSN applications is fundamentally a public health issue that requires more research and explicit intervention. Ultimately, we use this work to hypothesize the role of blocking and filtering as a strategy to avoid racism on GSN applications that may partly explain HIV disparities among YBMSM.

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  1. We use the term LGBTQ+ to connote the many sexual identities that are often included under the umbrella of sexual minority populations (e.g., pansexual, asexual, agender, etc.)


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This project was conceived while working under the tutelage of Ian Holloway, PhD; the authors are grateful for his guidance through the completion of this work and the larger study that informed this commentary. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of National Institutes of Health (NIH). This commentary draws on work from a larger study. Protocols, procedures, were approved by the North Campus Institutional Review Board at the University of California, Los Angeles.


This work was supported by the Center for HIV Identification, Prevention, and Treatment (CHIPTS) National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) grant MH58107; the UCLA Center for AIDS Research (CFAR) grant 5P30AI028697; and the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences through UCLA California Specialized Training Institute (CSTI) Grant UL1TR000124.

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Correspondence to Terrell J. A. Winder.

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Winder, T.J.A., Lea, C.H. “Blocking” and “Filtering”: a Commentary on Mobile Technology, Racism, and the Sexual Networks of Young Black MSM (YBMSM). J. Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities 6, 231–236 (2019).

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  • Mobile technology
  • Racism
  • HIV
  • Sexual networks