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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” 

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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]

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Research/Study

Moms for Liberty hiding behind front groups targeting schools

Moms for Liberty’s Book Look & Book Looks are facilitating the book banning process as they gut public school libraries

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Graphic by Molly Butler for Media Matters

By Olivia Little | WASHINGTON – As we enter Banned Books Week 2022, a new movement to gut public school libraries is sweeping the nation, with far-right “parental rights” group Moms for Liberty and two pro-censorship organizations — Book Look and Book Looks — at the forefront.

Moms for Liberty’s book banning campaign is growing in both size and intensity, with a clear strategy: manufacture moral panic in your community to pressure public schools into removing titles with LGBTQ themes or discussions of racism in American history. With the help of Book Look and Book Looks, it’s been increasingly successful.

With over 200 chapters, Moms for Liberty has become the largest driver of the nationwide book banning crusade, which has led to harassment and threats against public school teacherslibrarians, and education officials. Moms for Liberty chapters have challenged Martin Luther King Jr. and the March to Washington because of “photographs of political violence” and Ruby Bridges Goes to School because of “racist remarks,” among other objections. Moms for Liberty is also a vocally anti-LGBTQ organization and has advocated for trans bathroom bans in public schools.

Now, Media Matters has obtained documentation showing that Moms for Liberty has created “Books/Library Director” chapter positions that would be responsible for surveying and evaluating library book lists and challenging them within local school districts. These positions would allow each individual chapter to have a member organizing the gutting of public school libraries. One chapter has already started a “book review committee” and encouraged parents to go to their child’s public school open house and take pictures of books in the library containing “material most of us would not want our kids reading.”

Media Matters has also uncovered evidence that Moms for Liberty chapters “have teamed up” with Book Look and Book Looks, which appear to be distinct entities that are crowdsourcing parents’ book reviews and using them as justification for literature bans in public schools. And while the two organizations are separate, they use nearly the same book rating system, have overlapping book reviews, and operate in a seemingly identical manner.

book look v book looks

Book Look and Book Looks both collect reports to expedite the process of challenging books, helping conservative activists organize campaigns around parents’ outrage and demand a book’s removal without even reading it. Anonymous volunteers create reports by documenting examples of profane or inappropriate content with their corresponding page number, which are then packaged into “easy to understand book content reviews centered around objectionable content.” Books are given a rating on a scale from zero to five, with zero being “appropriate for all audiences” and five being “might be arrested for reading at school board meetings.”

The rating system allows heavily biased right-wing reviewers to disguise themselves as objective arbiters. For example, a Book Looks report about Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home — an award-winning graphic novel about the author’s “journey from childhood to college student to adult in relation to both her identity as a lesbian and her dynamic with her family, particularly her father who is a closeted gay man” — cites the depiction of “alternative sexualities” and “alternative gender ideologies” among other justifications for why it should be removed from school libraries. It was given a four rating: “Not for minors.”

In addition to rating books, sharing out-of-context quotes on Facebook of “objectionable” books is another part of the groups’ broader strategy that they say “gathers attention” on social media and “gets people engaged with outrage.” Individuals are also encouraged to send school boards snippets of the most objectionable books and attend board meetings to “ask publicly about progress,” or, “if you have brave volunteers, attempt to read some passages from these books and ask if the board thinks this is OK for minors. Let them stand behind this material and own it if they are not working to get rid of it.” 

Notably, Book Look’s website directs parents to links about the anti-LGBTQ “grooming” smear and articles about Moms for Liberty “fighting against porn” in schools; it also provides users with anti-trans memes to spread on social media. Some of the group’s infographics push back against the accusation that Book Look and Moms for Liberty encourage banning books, claiming that they “support the process of challenging and removing books in school libraries” and establishing “book boundaries” — which they argue is distinct from “the banning of books.” (It’s not.)

book banning infographics

There is a clear electoral initiative in this strategy, as the last point on Book Look’s plan of action is to “vote them [school board members] out next election if they refuse to work on this issue.” Taking over school boards has been a key strategy of Moms for Liberty since its inception, and it’s no surprise that the group’s efforts are accelerating as the midterms approach.

In addition to overlapping strategies, there is an undeniable connection between Moms for Liberty and these two organizations. Book Look was originally formed as the Moms for Liberty Library Book Committee, and while Book Looks claims to be unaffiliated with Moms for Liberty, Book Riot uncovered that the organization was actually spearheaded by a Moms for Liberty member. Book Looks also uses the same rating system that was shared on the Moms For Liberty Brevard County public Facebook page one month before the group formally began.

Even though the organizations are clearly tied, they have successfully duped reporters. The Washington Post extensively reported on Book Look and Book Looks without mentioning their close affiliation with Moms for Liberty (although the piece did quote the chair of a local Moms for Liberty chapter praising the group’s efforts to “prevent children from encountering sexually explicit material”). MIT’s Technology Review did the same.

Moms for Liberty has positioned itself at the center of the book banning movement to whitewash American history and push an anti-LGBTQ agenda while placing right-wing propaganda in school libraries instead. And it is using the cover of supposed parent reviews to advance this right-wing campaign, intentionally stoking outrage and encouraging distrust in public schools.

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

Olivia Little is a researcher at Media Matters. She holds a bachelor’s degree in law and public policy from Indiana University. Olivia previously worked as a research associate for Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2020 presidential campaign.

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

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Research/Study

Bisexual employees are less likely to be out at work

Cisgender bisexual and gay men often report higher rates of unfair treatment at work compared to lesbian and bisexual women

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Supporting Bisexual employees in the workplace (Photo Credit: InterEngineering)

LOS ANGELES – A new study by the Williams Institute at UCLA School shows that cisgender bisexual employees are less likely to be open about their sexual orientation at work than cisgender gay and lesbian employees.

Only about one-third (36%) of cisgender bisexual employees were out to their supervisors, compared to three-quarters (75%) of cisgender gay men and lesbians. 

While bisexual employees overall are significantly less likely to report experiencing discrimination and harassment in the workplace than gay and lesbian employees, that difference disappears when looking at the experiences of employees who are open about being LGB at work.

One-quarter (24%) of all cisgender bisexual employees reported experiencing discrimination at work—including being fired or not hired—because of their sexual orientation, compared to 34% of all cisgender gay and lesbian workers. However, when looking at “out” LGB employees, similar proportions of bisexual employees (33%) and gay and lesbian employees (37%) reported experiencing workplace discrimination.

Experiences of discrimination and harassment among out workers differ by gender. Sixty percent of cisgender bisexual men who are out at work experienced verbal, physical, or sexual harassment compared to 38% of out bisexual women and 33% of out lesbians. Out gay men experienced similar levels of harassment as out bisexual men.

Using survey data collected in May 2021 from 935 LGBT adults in the workforce, researchers examined the workplace experiences of cisgender bisexual adults compared to cisgender lesbians and gay men. Workplace experiences of transgender employees were analyzed in a 2021 report.

“The higher rates of concealing their sexual minority identity among bisexual employees may mask the extent to which they experience unfair treatment based on their sexual orientation,” said lead author Christy Mallory, Legal Director at the Williams Institute. “It is vital that policymakers, employers, and researchers take a nuanced approach to understanding and addressing sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination in the workplace to meet the unique needs of these communities.”

KEY FINDINGS

Concealing LGB Identity

  • One in five (19%) cisgender bisexual employees reported being out to all of their coworkers, compared to half (50%) of cisgender lesbians and gay men.

Discrimination

  • Among all cisgender LGB employees, bisexual employees were significantly less likely than gay and lesbian employees to report experiencing discrimination at work including being fired or not hired at some point in their lives (24% v. 34%).
  • Among only cisgender LGB employees who were out at work, similar proportions reported experiencing discrimination: 33% of bisexual employees and 37% of gay and lesbian employees reported experiencing workplace discrimination.
  • Out gay and bisexual men were more likely to experience employment discrimination than out lesbians and bisexual women: 46% of out bisexual men and 43% of out gay men reported having been fired or not being hired because of their LGB status. In contrast, about one-quarter of out lesbians (25%) and out bisexual women (27%) reported similar experiences.

Harassment

  • Among all cisgender LGB employees, 34% of bisexual employees and 42% of gay and lesbian employees reported experiencing at least one type of harassment (verbal, physical, or sexual) in the workplace at some point in their lives.
  • Among only cisgender LGB employees who were out at work, 60% of out bisexual men reported one form of harassment (verbal, physical, or sexual), compared to 38% of bisexual women and 33% of out lesbians.

Retention

  • Among only cisgender LGB employees who were out at work, 58% of bisexual men and 50% of gay men said they had left a job because of unfair treatment compared to 35% of lesbians and 29% of bisexual women.

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Research/Study

200,000+ transgender voters could face barriers in 2022 midterms

64,800 transgender adults reside in states with the strictest forms of voter ID laws and could potentially be disenfranchised

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Photo Credit: ACLU

LOS ANGELES – An estimated 878,300 transgender adults will be eligible to vote in the 2022 midterm elections, according to a new report by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law. Approximately 203,700 of them could have problems voting at the polls because they do not have an ID that correctly reflects their name and/or gender.

Approximately 64,800 of these transgender adults reside in states with the strictest forms of voter ID laws and could potentially be disenfranchised.
 
In the U.S., 35 states have voter ID laws that require people to provide some form of identification to vote. Eight states with the strictest voter ID laws—Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Wisconsin—require people to show a government-issued photo ID, such as a driver’s license, U.S. passport, or military ID to vote using a regular ballot.

Voter registration requirements and voter ID laws may present a challenge for transgender people who do not have accurate identification.
 
“The requirements for updating the name and gender on official IDs vary widely across states, and the process can be complex and costly,” said lead author Kathryn O’Neill, Policy Analyst at the Williams Institute. “Transgender voters who live in states that require an ID to vote may face scrutiny or be turned away at the polls.”
 
Transgender people of color, young adults, students, people with low incomes, those experiencing homelessness, and people with disabilities are more likely to not have accurate IDs for voting.
 
“Voter ID laws may create barriers to voting for substantial numbers of voting-eligible transgender people, which is particularly notable in elections that are decided by a few votes,” said co-author Jody L. Herman, Senior Scholar of Public Policy at the Williams Institute. “States should take steps to improve access to voting for transgender people by changing voter ID laws, making the process of obtaining accurate IDs simpler and more affordable, training poll workers, and reducing barriers to voting more broadly.”

Read the report 

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