Connect with us

News Analysis

Fox News pushes to ban LGBTQ books, lies that they “promote pedophilia”

The Fox network show Fox & Friends also invited anti-critical race theory activists to defend the LGBTQ book bans

Published

on

Graphic courtesy of Media Matters for America

By Jasmine Geonzon | WASHINGTON – In just 13 days, Fox News aired six segments about local efforts in Fairfax County, Virginia, to take two LBGTQ young-adult books out of the public school system libraries and to remove a reading display featuring these books at a public library. During these segments, guests bolstered false claims that the books contained pedophilia.

Fox also brought on prominent critical race theory (CRT) opponents from the group Parents Defending Education — whose staff members have affiliations with conservative groups such as the Cato Institute and the Thomas B. Fordham Institute — to further defend the backlash against the books.

In September, a local parent, Stacy Langton, falsely claimed at a public school board meeting that two LGBTQ books — Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe and Lawn Boy by Jonathan Evison — available in the county’s public high school libraries contained pedophilia. In response, Fairfax County Public Schools removed the books from its libraries the next day, but they were returned in November after a review of the books’ contents. Langton made another outcry after a local public library put up a display featuring Gender Queer and Lawn Boy adjacent to the Bible and troll dolls, which also prompted the removal of the display early in December.

The uproar over Gender Queer and Lawn Boy stems from unfounded claims that the books depict sexual interactions between adults and children. Though Gender Queer and Lawn Boy do contain graphic depictions of sexual acts, reviews of the books by local LGBTQ activists of the advocacy group Fairfax Public Schools Pride concluded that neither include pedophilic content as claimed by opponents. According to GLAAD, censorship against LGBTQ books has dramatically increased since June 2021, especially as anti-CRT activism intensified, and led to coordinated pushes against teaching concepts related to race, sex, and gender. These combined efforts to lump together anti-LGBTQ and anti-CRT advocacy have also been used to specifically target trans individuals, as Media Matters has previously reported.

In line with its previous efforts to spread anti-CRT and anti-LGBTQ rhetoric, Fox is using this story to further incendiary narratives with the help of anti-CRT activists.

Fox’s segments on the books falsely claim the books are pedophilic and attack them as “disgusting”

A segment on the December 14 edition of America’s Newsroom included Fox News correspondent Mike Emanuel repeating the false claim that Gender Queer “includes graphic depictions of sexual acts between a boy and a man.”

The December 11 edition of Justice with Judge Jeanine featured Turning Point USA’s Charlie Kirk, who called the contents of books “pedophilia” and “disgusting” and said, “Any reasonable person would condemn these books.”

During a December 8 Fox News Primetime segment, host Tammy Bruce claimed that the public library, “which should be used to educate and enrich the community, is instead promoting leftist sexual ideology.” Bruce also echoed false claims that Gender Queer depicted “sex acts between a boy and a man.”

While some graphic sexual content is present in each book, Fox figures’ condemnation of both as simply pornographic dismisses the value of LGBTQ narratives being available for young people. As Gender Queer‘s author Maia Kobabe noted, “Others simply called it pornography, a common accusation against work with themes of queer sexuality.”  

Fox also invited anti-CRT activists to defend the censorship

On December 8 and 9, Fox News brought in two anti-CRT activists, Nicole Neily and Harry Jackson, respectively, to discuss why the removal of Gender Queer and Lawn Boy from library shelves and the display was justified. Neily is the president of the activist organization Parents Defending Education and Jackson is its “parent advocate.” According to Media Matters’ internal database, Fox News hosted Neily at least five times and Jackson at least four times in 2021 to discuss CRT. In at least two of those appearances, Fox obscured Jackson’s ties to the group, instead framing him as a concerned parent.

Previously, Fox gave a platform to the parent advocating for the books’ censorship

Stacy Langton, the parent who brought the pedolphilia allegations to the Fairfax County public school system, appeared on Fox News on the September 26 edition of Fox & Friends Weekend and the October 27 edition of Fox & Friends. During her first interview, Langton spread false claims about the books containing pedophilia and co-host Rachel Campos-Duffy thanked her and called her “a hero.” Quotes from Langton also appear in at least three articles on the Fox News website.

As conservative forces continue to attack LGBTQ literature with the help of right-wing media, librarians will be faced with the challenge of promoting inclusive and diverse resources to their communities. Not only will librarians be burdened in the wake of widespread proposals to ban LGBTQ content, but LGBTQ youth seeking representation will also shoulder the social harms waged by conservative activists. 

Methodology

Media Matters searched transcripts in the SnapStream video database for all original programming on Fox News Channel for any of the terms ”Fairfax,” or “Dolley Madison” within close proximity of any of the terms “book,” or “library,” or “Lawn Boy,” or “Genderqueer” or any variation of the words pedophilia or porn from December 3 through December 16, 2021. 

We included segments, which we defined as instances when the books were the stated topic of discussion or when we found significant discussion about the books in question. We defined significant discussion as instances when two or more speakers in a multitopic segment discussed the controversy with one another. We did not include mentions, which we defined as instances when a single speaker mentioned the controversy without another speaker engaging with the comment, or teasers, which we defined as instances when the anchor or host promoted a segment about the controversy scheduled to air later in the broadcast.

*********************

Jasmine Geonzon is a researcher at Media Matters. She graduated from the College of William & Mary with a bachelor’s degree in American studies and sociology with a concentration in social problems, policy, and justice.

********************

The preceding article was previously published by Media Matters for America and is republished by permission.

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Research/Study

Busting anti-queer bias in text prediction

Published

on

Screenshot/YouTube Heartstopper text session (NetFlix)

By Lillian Goodwin | LOS ANGELES – Modern text prediction is far from perfect — take, for instance, when a search query suggests something completely different from your intention. But the trouble doesn’t end at inaccuracy. Text prediction can also be extremely exclusive or biased when it comes to predicting results related to marginalized communities.

A team of researchers from the USC Viterbi School of Engineering Information Sciences Institute and the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, led by Katy Felkner, a USC Viterbi Ph.D. in computer science student and National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship recipient, has developed a system to quantify and fix anti-queer bias in the artificial intelligence behind text prediction.

The project, presented by Felkner at the Queer in AI workshop at the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics (NAACL) conference in July, looks at both detecting and reducing anti-queer bias in a large language model, which is used in everything from search bars to language translation systems.

The large language model, or LLM, is the “brain” behind the text prediction that pops up when we type something in a search bar—an artificial intelligence that “completes” sentences by predicting the most likely string of words that follows a given prompt.

However, LLMs must first be “trained” by being fed millions of examples of pre-written content so that they can learn what sentences typically look like. Like an energetic toddler, the LLM repeats what it hears, and what it hears can be heteronormative or even overtly discriminatory.

“Most LLMs are trained on huge amounts of data that’s crawled from the internet,” Felkner said. “They’re going to pick up every kind of social bias that you can imagine is out there on the web.”

FEW WORDS, BIG EFFECT

The project found that a popular LLM called BERT showed significant homophobic bias. This bias is measured through Felkner’s benchmark, which compares the likelihood that the LLM predicts heteronormative sentences versus sentences that include a queer relationship.

“A heteronormative output is something like ‘James held hands with Mary,’ versus ‘James held hands with Tom,’” said Felkner. “Both are valid sentences, but the issue is that, across a wide variety of contexts, the model prefers the heteronormative output.”

While the difference is just a few words, the effect is far from small.

Katy Felkner presents her work at NAACL

Predicted outputs that talk about queer people in stereotypical ways can enforce users’ biases, and the model’s lack of ‘experience’ with queer voices can result in it looking at queer language as obscene.

“A persistent issue for queer people is that a lot of times, the words that we use to describe ourselves, or slurs that have been reclaimed, are still considered obscene or overly sexual,” said Felkner, who is also the graduate representative for Queers in Engineering, Science and Technology (QuEST) chapter of Out in STEM at USC.

“If a model routinely flags these words, and these posts are then taken down from the platforms or forums they’re on, you’re silencing the queer community.”

COMMUNITY INPUT

To tackle this problem, Felkner gave BERT a tune-up by feeding it Tweets and news articles containing LGBT+ keywords. This content used to “train” BERT came from two separate databases of Felkner’s own creation, called QueerTwitter and QueerNews.

Although language processing requires extremely large amounts of data—the QueerTwitter database contained over 2.3 million Tweets—she took care to single out hashtags that were being used primarily by queer and trans people, such as #TransRightsareHumanRights.

As the model was exposed to different perspectives and communities, it became more familiar with queer language and issues. As a result, it was more likely to represent them in its predictions.

After being trained with the new, more inclusive data, the model showed significantly less bias. The tweets from QueerTwitter proved the most effective of the two databases, reducing the prevalence of heteronormative results to almost half of all predictions.

“I think QueerTwitter’s results being more effective than QueerNews speaks to the importance of direct community involvement, and that queer and trans voices — and the data from their communities — is going to be the most valuable in designing a technology that won’t harm them,” Felkner said. “We were excited about this finding because it’s empirical proof of that intuition people already hold: that these communities should have an input in how technology is designed.”

Going forward, the project will look to address bias that affects specific parts of the LGBT+ community, using more refined and targeted sets of data and more customized prompts for the model to work with — such as tackling harmful stereotypes around lesbians. Long term, Felkner hopes the project can be used to train other LLMs, help researchers test the fairness of their natural language processing, or even uncover completely new biases.

“We’re dealing with how to fight against the tide of biased data to get an understanding of what ‘unfair’ looks like and how to test for and correct it, which is a problem both in general and for subcultures that we don’t even know about,” said Jonathan May, USC Viterbi research associate professor of computer science, Felkner’s advisor and study co-author. “There’s a lot of great ways to extend the work that Katy is doing.”

*******************

The preceding article was previously published by the University of Southern California‘s Viterbi School of Engineering and is republished by permission.

Continue Reading

Research/Study

Multiracial LGBTQ youth face heightened suicide risk

Nearly half of multiracial LGBTQ youth (48%) reported seriously considering suicide in the past year, compared to 45% of all LGBTQ youth

Published

on

Photo by Harrison J. Bahe/model: Cameron Sotelo

NEW YORK – A new report released today by The Trevor Project, the world’s largest suicide prevention and mental health organization for LGBTQ young people, is the first of its kind to exclusively explore the mental health and well-being of multiracial LGBTQ youth, highlighting the unique mental health experiences among youth of different racial backgrounds.

Key findings include:

  • Nearly half of multiracial LGBTQ youth (48%) reported seriously considering suicide in the past year, compared to 45% of all LGBTQ youth
  • Nearly one in five multiracial LGBTQ youth (17%) attempted suicide in the past year, compared to 14% of all LGBTQ youth
  • Multiracial transgender and nonbinary youth reported higher rates of suicide risk, with 55% seriously considering suicide and 22% attempting suicide in the past year
  • Multiracial LGBTQ youth who are exclusively youth of color reported higher rates of both seriously considering (52%) and attempting suicide (21%) in the past year compared to multiracial LGBTQ youth who are White and another race/ethnicity

“These findings shine a light on the unique mental health challenges and suicide risk of young people living with the distinctive identities of being multiracial and LGBTQ. The research world has largely overlooked this group of young people and how they might experience various risk and protective factors,” said Myeshia Price, Director of Research Science at The Trevor Project. “These novel findings overwhelmingly point to an urgent need to invest in mental health services and prevention programs that specifically affirm the identities of multiracial LGBTQ youth and are attuned to the nuances of how they navigate and experience the world.”

Multiracial LGBTQ youth reported higher rates of negative risk factors — such as experiences of homelessness, food insecurity, and discrimination and victimization based on their race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, or gender identity — than their peers. In particular, multiracial LGBTQ youth who are exclusively youth of color reported higher rates of race/ethnicity-based discrimination compared to multiracial LGBTQ youth who are White and another race/ethnicity (55% vs. 37%). These findings highlight the potential role that racism contributes to poor mental health among young people of color. 

These data also illustrate protective factors unique to multiracial LGBTQ youth, which may play an important role in uplifting their wellbeing and preventing suicide. Multiracial LGBTQ youth who reported high levels of social support from family and high levels of support from friends had significantly lower odds of attempting suicide in the past year than youth who did not have that support (55% and 39%).

This report was created using data from a national sample of nearly 4,739 multiracial LGBTQ youth ages 13–24 who participated in The Trevor Project’s 2022 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health. The full report can be found below or here.

If you or someone you know needs help or support, The Trevor Project’s trained crisis counselors are available 24/7 at 1-866-488-7386, via chat at TheTrevorProject.org/Get-Help, or by texting START to 678678. 

Continue Reading

Research/Study

Twitter & Facebook allowing hate labels “pedophile/groomer” on platforms

“Online hate & lies reinforce offline violence. The normalization of anti-LGBTQ+ narratives in digital spaces puts LGBTQ+ people in danger” 

Published

on

Photo by Christopher Kane

WASHINGTON – According to a report released Wednesday by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and The Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH), Twitter and Facebook are permitting the spread of content linking LGBTQ+ people to pedophiles or “groomers.”

The authors of “Digital Hate: Social Media’s Role in Amplifying Dangerous Lies about LGBTQ+ People” found a dramatic uptick this year in posts mentioning “grooming,” which refers to the practice of pursuing relationships with children for the purpose of sexually abusing or exploiting them. 

Use of this term and related terms as a slander against LGBTQ+ people is an explicit violation of Twitter’s rules governing hate speech, the company said. And yet, even as the platform saw a 406% increase in such tweets beginning in March, it failed to take action in 99% of reported cases, the study shows. 

Forty-eight million people viewed these tweets, the study estimates, with the majority coming from a small group of right-wing extremists, including lawmakers like Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (GA). 

Of the most-viewed “grooming” tweets, 66% of impressions were driven by just ten users, the report finds. 

For its part, Meta prohibits anti-LGBTQ+ content on Facebook and Instagram but removed only one paid advertisement mentioning the “grooming” narrative. 

The findings echo CCDH’s report last year on misinformation concerning the covid pandemic (including vaccines), the online spread of which was linked to just a dozen people with large followings on social media platforms. 

“Facebook, Google and Twitter have put policies into place to prevent the spread of vaccine misinformation; yet to date, all have failed to satisfactorily enforce those policies,” CCDH’s CEO Imran Ahmed wrote in the report. 

Just as with covid, the companies’ failure to intervene and take down misinformation and hate speech can have dire consequences. “Online hate and lies reflect and reinforce offline violence and hate,” Ahmed said in a statement about the new report. “The normalization of anti-LGBTQ+ narratives in digital spaces puts LGBTQ+ people in danger.” 

An old, dangerous slander is resuscitated 

In the 1970s, anti-LGBTQ+ crusader Anita Bryant campaigned against inclusive non-discrimination measures by spreading the lie that gay men and lesbians sought to recruit children for sexual abuse. 

Passage, in March of this year, of Florida’s Parental Rights in Education bill – deemed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by critics – appears to have been a turning point that led to the resuscitation of the slanderous rhetoric linking LGBTQ+ people to pedophiles or “groomers.” 

The label was weaponized by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s spokesperson, Christina Pushaw, to push back against critics of the legislation, which prohibits public school teachers from discussing sexual orientation or gender identity with students in certain grade levels. 

LGBTQ+ advocates say non-cisgender and non-heterosexual youth will be harmed as the bill effectively erases their identities, while potentially criminalizing something as innocuous as a teacher’s mention of their same-sex spouse. 

“The bill that liberals inaccurately call “Don’t Say Gay” would be more accurately described as an Anti-Grooming Bill,” Pushaw wrote on Twitter. 

She added, “If you’re against the Anti-Grooming Bill, you are probably a groomer or at least you don’t denounce the grooming of 4-8 year old children. Silence is complicity. This is how it works, Democrats, and I didn’t make the rules.” 

According to the CCDH and HRC’s report, the social media platforms saw a corresponding spike in content targeting LGBTQ+ people as pedophiles and child abusers after Gov. DeSantis signed the Parental Rights in Education bill into law.

The narrative has occasionally been used to attack non-LGBTQ+ people, as Michigan State Sen. Mallory McMorrow experienced at the hands of her Republican colleague Sen. Lana Theis. 

McMorrow told The Los Angeles Blade there is a moral as well as a political obligation to stand up to conservative extremists who baselessly accuse LGBTQ+ people, or their political opponents, of being pedophiles or enablers of child sexual abuse. 

Read the full report here: [LINK]

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement

Follow Us @LosAngelesBlade

Sign Up for Blade eBlasts

Popular