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Busting anti-queer bias in text prediction

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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.”

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

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Florida LGBTQ+ parents thought about moving re: Don’t Say Gay

Of those surveyed, 56% of LGBTQ+ parents have considered moving out of Florida, and 17% have taken steps to do so

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Screenshot/YouTube

LOS ANGELES – New research from the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law and Clark University finds nearly 9 out of 10 (88%) of LGBTQ+ parents surveyed are concerned about the impact of the Don’t Say Gay bill on them and their children.

Parents cited concerns that the bill would restrict them from speaking freely about their families and could affect their children’s sense of self and sense of safety. As a result, 56% of LGBTQ+ parents have considered moving out of Florida, and 17% have taken steps to do so.

On March 28, 2022, the Florida Legislature passed HB 1557, the “Parental Rights in Education” bill, also known as the Don’t Say Gay bill. The bill prohibits classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity before the fourth grade. Any instruction after that must be “age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate.”

Using data gathered from 113 LGBTQ+ parents in Florida, researchers examined the concerns and perspectives of LGBTQ+ parents regarding the state’s Don’t Say Gay bill. Almost one-quarter said they feared harassment by neighbors because of their sexual orientation or gender identity or expression, and 21% had been less out in their neighborhood, workplace, or community.

“Legislation can have a negative impact on LGBTQ+ parent families by cultivating a climate of fear and insecurity,” said study author Abbie E. Goldberg, Professor of Psychology at Clark University. “For LGBTQ+ parents without the means to move or send their children to private schools, the stress that this legislation creates will be significant.”

ADDITIONAL FINDINGS

  • LGBTQ+ parents were concerned that Don’t Say Gay would restrict their children from speaking freely about their families (e.g., showing family photos in a school-based family tree project), negatively impact their sense of worth, and encourage a hostile school climate.
  • 13% of the LGBTQ+ parents with LGBTQ+ children said that their children had expressed fears about living in Florida.
  • LGBTQ+ parents who expressed the greatest concern typically had school-aged children in public versus private schools.
  • LGBTQ+ parents reported that their children had already experienced harassment and bullying at school because they had LGBTQ+ parents and were prevented from being able to talk about their parents or their own LGBTQ+ identities.
  • LGBTQ+ parents surveyed coped by becoming more engaged in activism, avoiding the news, getting support from friends and family, and planning for the future (e.g., moving).
  • 11% of parents considered moving their children to a school that is not bound by the Don’t Say Gay law, such as a private school.

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Libs of TikTok’s Raichik on QAnon show attacks LGBTQ community

Libs of TikTok Twitter account with 1.7 million followers constantly demeans, attacks, and pushes disinformation about the LGBTQ community

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Graphic by Andrea Austria for Media Matters

By Justin Horowitz | WASHINGTON – “Libs of TikTok” founder and anti-LGBTQ bigot Chaya Raichik appeared Tuesday on QAnon conspiracy theorist DeAnna Lorraine’s show to attack LGBTQ people.

Raichik’s Libs of TikTok is a Twitter account with 1.7 million followers that constantly demeans, attacks, and pushes disinformation about the LGBTQ community.

Lorraine is a far-right pundit, QAnon conspiracy theorist, former Infowars host, and a failed Republican primary candidate for Congress from California. Her show, Shots Fired with DeAnna Lorraine, is part of white nationalist Stew Peters’ media network and is streamed on Rumble.

“We’ve got a very exclusive interview with Libs of TikTok — yes, Libs of TikTok,” Lorraine said while introducing Raichik on the January 10 edition of her show. “I feel really honored to be here and interview her.”

From the January 10, 2023, edition of Shots Fired with DeAnna Lorraine :

During the interview, Lorraine described LGBTQ people as “liars” and “corrupt, godless groomers.” The term “groomer” is a slur used to wrongly equate LGBTQ people with pedophilia.

When Lorraine asked Raichik about recent headlines she had shared, Raichik described an LGBTQ organization providing free gender-affirming clothing products to trans youth as “scary” and “dangerous.”

Later, Raichik unjustifiably conflated trans youth obtaining gender-affirming care with pedophilia and grooming. Gender-affirming care is lifesaving medical assistance that allows trans people to transition to their affirmed gender.

This was one of Raichik’s first interviews since appearing on Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Today in late December. During her media hit with Carlson, Raichik revealed her face on camera for the first time while making barbaric comments about LGBTQ people.

Raichik also appeared on right-wing YouTuber Tim Pool’s podcast in early January. Pool often hosts anti-LGBTQ extremists like Raichik.

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Justin Horowitz is a researcher at Media Matters, where he has worked since September 2020.

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

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LGBTQ+ people 9X more likely to be victims of violent hate crimes

The rise of extreme anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and behaviors may embolden individuals to carry out hate crimes against LGBTQ people

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Memorial to the victims of the Club Q mass-shooting in Colorado Springs outside the nightclub hours after the hate crime took place. (Screenshot/YouTube)

LOS ANGELES – About one out of 10 violent victimizations against LGBT people are hate crimes, according to a new study by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law. LGBT people are nine times more likely than non-LGBT people to be victims of violent hate crimes. In addition, LGBT violent hate crime victims are more likely to be younger, have a relationship with their assailant, and have an assailant who is white.

Researchers analyzed hate crime data from the 2017-2019 National Crime Victimization Survey, the first nationally representative and comprehensive criminal victimization data to include information on the sexual orientation and gender identity of respondents. They defined violent hate crimes as victimizations on people’s bodies (such as assaults) that were motivated by bias and involved hate language, hate symbols, or some confirmation by police as evidence that the incident was a hate crime.

Results showed that, between 2017 and 2019, LGBT people experienced 6.6 violent hate crime victimizations per 1,000 people, compared to 0.8 victimizations per 1,000 people for non-LGBT people. LGBT victims of violent hate crimes were more likely than LGBT non-hate crime victims to report problems in their social lives, negative emotional responses, and physical symptoms of distress.

“The rise of extreme anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and behaviors may embolden individuals to carry out hate crimes against LGBT people, so it will be important to track how our findings may change after 2019,” said lead author Andrew R. Flores, Affiliated Scholar at the Williams Institute. “It is vital that law enforcement and anti-violence programs are trained and prepared to effectively serve the unique needs of LGBT victims.”

KEY FINDINGS

  • About 9% of all violent victimizations against LGBT people are hate crimes, compared to 4% of violent victimizations against non-LGBT people.
  • LGBT violent hate crime victims (85%) are more likely to report that the bias motivation was gender or sexuality, compared to 25% of non-LGBT violent hate crime victims.
  • LGBT people experienced 5.4 violent hate crimes specifically motivated by sexual orientation and gender identity per 1,000 people, compared to 0.2 victimizations per 1,000 people for non-LGBT people.
  • LGBT violent hate crime victims are more likely than non-LGBT victims to be below age 35 (73% vs. 38%, respectively), have a relationship with their assailant (49% vs. 11%, respectively), and have an assailant who is white (88% vs. 54%, respectively).
  • The majority of LGBT violent hate crime victims are women (61%) and the majority of offenders are male (74%).
  • LGBT victims of violent hate crimes are about five times more likely than LGBT victims of other types of violent crimes to feel angry, violated, and unsafe, and four times more likely to feel anxious, sad, or depressed, as a result of the victimization.
  • LGBT victims of violent hate crimes are six times more likely than LGBT victims of other types of violent crimes to have high blood pressure, five times more likely to have headaches, and three times more likely to have trouble sleeping as a result of the victimization.
  • Fewer than four out of ten LGBT violent hate crime victims sought professional help for their emotional (39%) or physical (35%) problems related to the victimization.

“Hate crimes have adverse physical and psychological effects on LGBT victims that are greater than the effect of similar crimes not motivated by hate,” said study author Ilan H. Meyer, Distinguished Senior Scholar of Public Policy at the Williams Institute. “These findings highlight the importance of developing and strengthening federal, state, and local interventions to protect LGBT people from victimization and providing support and services to mitigate the ill effects of hate crime victimization.” 

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GLAAD report: Drag shows targeted by right-wing every 2.5 days

A number of incidents involved violence or weapons. Extremist groups like the Proud Boys, Patriot Front, & white supremacists were involved

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Drag queen Bridgette Galore/Los Angeles Blade graphic

LOS ANGELES – Every 2.5 days or 38% of this year there have been attacks on drag performances and shows across the United States in data released by GLAAD this past week. Many of these attacks escalated into violence including the mass-shooting at Club Q in Colorado Springs last month.

A number of the drag events targeted by threats and protests in person were first targeted by right-wing media outlets like Fox News and the Daily Wire, and social media accounts like Libs Of TikTok.

The data showed that 2022 news reports cited incidents targeting drag events in 47 U.S. states, with the exclusion of South Dakota, Rhode Island, West Virginia and Washington, DC. GLAAD did note that it is possible that incidents did occur in those areas but they did not receive media coverage.

The states with the highest number of drag events targeted by protests and threats in 2022 were:

Texas (20)

North Carolina (10)

Illinois (8)

Tennessee (6)

California (6)

Georgia (5)

While many of the incidents were reported in smaller cities and towns in the South and Midwest, a number also took place in areas with higher LGBTQ populations and LGBTQ-inclusive communities.

Armed pro-LGBTQ protestors facing off against anti-LGBTQ right-wing extremists outside the drag show Aztec Theatre in downtown San Antonio a week ago. (Video Screenshot/Twitter)

New York saw four protest incidents, three of which took place in New York City. Some of the more violent or threatening incidents took place in Eugene, Oregon; San Francisco suburbs, and Oklahoma’s capital, Tulsa. Events were also targeted in larger cities including New York, Philadelphia, Memphis, Dallas, Cleveland, Las Vegas and Phoenix.

A number of the drag events targeted by threats and protests in person were first targeted by right-wing media outlets like Fox News and the Daily Wire, and social media accounts like Libs Of TikTok.

The right-wing media outlets and accounts often misrepresented what would occur at upcoming drag events, spinning them as harmful to children, and protests or threats would follow.

A Media Matters report from June found that Fox News had devoted more hours to targeting drag queens and transgender people than to coverage of the January 6th insurrection hearings.

A Media Matters analysis in November found that disturbing misinformation about drag had ramped up on Fox News and the Daily Wire in the weeks before the Tulsa firebombing, with Tucker Carlson falsely claiming that drag queens “want to sexualize children,” and the Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh calling on police to “break down the doors” of LGBTQ clubs and arrest drag queens.

Sometimes the targeting came full-circle, with right-wing media hyping up negative attention ahead of an event and continuing afterward. In June, Libs Of TikTok targeted the Couer D’Alene, Idaho ‘Pride In The Park’ (where 31 anti-LGBTQ protesters were arrested) ahead of the event, saying that a ‘family friendly drag dance party’ was being promoted by the Idaho Satanic Temple.

Afterward, the account shared a doctored video of a drag performer that spread misinformation and falsely alleged indecent exposure during the performance, which led the drag performer to file a lawsuit in September.

The Libs Of TikTok account was briefly suspended by Twitter in September after news reports connected its posts to bomb threats made against children’s hospitals that provide gender-affirming care to transgender youth, but the account was reinstated.

A typical Libs of TikTok Tweet:

A number of incidents involved violence or weapons. Extremist groups like the Proud Boys, Patriot Front, and local white supremacist chapters were involved in several incidents.

Anti-LGBTQ activist outside church drag bingo event in Katy, Texas (Screenshot/YouTube KHOU CBS 11)
  • In Tulsa, Oklahoma, this October, security video captured a person smashing the windows of a donut shop before lighting a Molotov cocktail and firebombing the storefront.
     
  • A bomb threat was emailed to a local news station in South Carolina, claiming several bombs were planted at a restaurant hosting drag brunch and threatening to kill performers and attendees.
     
  • About 50 members of the Proud Boys extremist group armed with long guns and in helmets, full face masks and flak jackets protested drag story hour at a church in Ohio.
     
  • Neo-Nazis with swastikas and transphobic signs at a Pflugerville, TX restaurant hosting a drag brunch.
     
  • Armed protestors, raising hands in Nazi salutes, disrupt drag bingo fundraiser in Katy, TX.
     
  • Alleged Proud Boys disrupt multiple LGBTQ-inclusive events in Arlington, TX, blocking the sidewalk, falsely claiming attendees were “pedophiles.”
     
  • Extremist protesters with a history of recording and photographing children without consent protest drag performances at a restaurant in Houston.
     
  • San Antonio concert venue cancels upcoming drag shows for the year, citing threats against performers and staff.
     
  • In Eugene, Oregon, this October, protesters carried semiautomatic rifles and threw rocks and smoke bombs.
     
  • In the Chicago suburb of Downers Grove, Illinois, in September, a public library canceled a drag bingo event after receiving a threatening letter that included a bullet and the phrase “more to come.”
     
  • In Memphis, Tennessee, in September, local leaders said Proud Boys were among the armed protesters that showed up to a drag event at the Museum of Science and Industry, forcing the event’s last-minute cancellation.
     
  • In Sparks, Nevada, in June, children at the town library ran for safety from a Proud Boys protester carrying a gun.
     
  • In Couer d’Alene, Idaho, in June, police arrested 31 Patriot Front members who had traveled from ten different states armed with riot gear and smoke grenades to protest a Pride event that had been targeted by Libs Of TikTok online.

GLAAD reviewed legislative proposals in six states that aim to restrict or ban drag. In most cases, extremist politicians pointed to local drag events as the motivation for new legislation that would ban public drag performances such as those that take place at Pride festivals, or ban minors from observing drag performers, including library events such as Drag Story Hour. 

Graphic via GLAAD
  • In Tennessee this November, Sen. Jack Johnson filed a bill that aims to ban drag performance in public.
     
  • In Texas, two bills were proposed in June and November. One proposal seeks to ban minors from attending drag story hours or similar events, and another would classify drag as a “sexually oriented business” on par with strip clubs.
     
  • A federal bill introduced in October and backed by 30 House Republicans would ban drag shows at any federally-funded institution such as libraries and schools.
     
  • Idaho news outlets reported in October that a bill banning drag in public would be introduced in the upcoming legislative session.
     
  • In Michigan this June, lawmakers announced a plan to ban drag from schools despite no evidence of any drag events at Michigan schools.
     
  • In Arizona, state senator Vincent Leach announced in June he and other Republican colleagues would attempt to ban minors from drag events.
     
  • In Florida this June, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced he would consider a proposal to ban minors from drag events. Later that month, he filed a complaint against a Miami restaurant that held an all-ages drag show.

Dragphobia is on the Rise

“There is clear and present danger against our community and threats… we really haven’t seen it at this level in over a decade, if ever,” GLAAD president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said on the “Takeaway” podcast this week.

“Wanting to shield children from sexual adult entertainment, whose stated goal is to encourage queerness, is now called ‘dragphobia,'” anti-LGBTQ+ Libs of TikTok posted. “They can make up whatever terms they want and call us all kinds of names but that doesn’t change the fact that drag isn’t appropriate for kids.”

Conflict sparked outside Kelowna drag show (Screenshot/Global News)

In Canada there has also been a sharp uptick in protests and threats of violence targeting drag shows and performances. The most recent in Kelowna, British Columbia, in early December where a drag event at The DunnEnzies Pizza Lower Mission location was targeted with protestors telling one of the owners of the restaurant that they were a “sick bunch of pedophiles” and “parasites” and told they should hang from the gallows.

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The Federalist & Heritage Foundation using anti-LGBTQ alarmism

Conservatives are using the demonization of LGBTQ people to capture education through book bans, school board meetings, & legislation

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Graphic by Andrea Austria for Media Matters

By Mia Gingerich | WASHINGTON – FoxNews.com recently published an op-ed from the Heritage Foundation’s Jay Greene claiming children in America were being subjected to “proselytization by left-leaning teachers” intent on providing instruction on “controversial topics, such as critical race theory and gender identity.”

The answer, Greene suggested, was the expansion of policies favoring private and charter schools like Education Savings Accounts. These policies, which threaten to drain money from the public education system, are often promoted by organizations like Heritage that seek to decimate the American public school system in the name of right-wing ideology and profit.  

The past year saw a resurgence in conservative attempts to use the demonization of the LGBTQ community in order to ideologically capture the issue of education.

It came through a renewed focus on school board races, bans on books and curriculum discussing race and LGBTQ identity, and the passage of legislation threatening to force LGBTQ educators from their teaching positions.

Integral to these attempts to reshape public education are anti-public education activists who seek to divert taxpayer dollars from public K-12 schools to institutions with less oversight and sometimes a far-right curriculum

Organizations with vested interests in charter schools latch onto latest culture war panic to push for school privatization

Greene works for the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank actively engaged in fighting LGBTQ rights through propaganda campaigns. Heritage content regularly pushes an anti-gay and anti-trans ideology alongside pro-charter school and anti-public school talking points. In June, when the organization sought someone to write its embarrassingly inept study attacking gender-affirming care for trans youth, it chose Greene, whose greatest claim to fame is not experience in medicine but rather a citation in a Supreme Court opinion upholding public funding for private religious schools. 

Heritage’s rhetoric shares deep financial ties with groups funded by the Koch brothers, the billionaires long connected to the anti-public school movement. In 2019, the Koch brothers recommitted their resources to decimating America’s K-12 public education system under the banner of school choice, a term often co-opted by anti-public school activists as a euphemism for policies exclusively favoring private and charter schools. Heritage is one of several groups and outlets leading the fight to undermine both LGBTQ rights and public education that are also tied to people and entities invested in both the political effort to promote private and charter schools and those schools themselves. 

Another such outlet is The Federalist, which throughout 2020 and 2021 published numerous articles bashing public schools over the false claim they were teaching critical race theory and calling for Republicans to push pro-charter school policies. 

The alarmism driven by outlets like The Federalist was subsequently used by Hillsdale College, a far-right Christian college with a history of hostility toward LGBTQ students, to expand its network of affiliated charter schools and right-wing K-12 curriculum marketed to private and charter schools.

Hillsdale also has close ties with The Federalist — co-founder Ben Domenech has used the college to host his podcast, current Editor-in-Chief Mollie Hemingway is a senior journalism fellow at the school, and Executive Editor Joy Pullman is a Hillsdale alumna.

Recent articles from The Federalist have taken a similar tone as last year, albeit with a new boogeyman, attacking public schools for teaching “gender ideology” (a catchall term invented by anti-LGBTQ activists to malign any open discussion of LGBTQ identity) and with false claims that school libraries contained “pornography,” while calling for states to “adopt the school choice model.” The outlet does this while also explicitly promoting Hillsdale’s charter schools, which it ironically frames as a “no-politics” alternative to public education. 

Chris Rufo, a figure who has likewise played a role in concocting anger against both the LGBTQ community and public school teachers, has followed a similar path. Rufo first tested his tactic of ginning up outrage by branding outmoded fears of diversity and inclusion under labels easily digestible by his audience last year with his fearmongering over critical race theory. This year he transitioned to spreading the false claim that LGBTQ people were “grooming” children. Rufo is also an ardent critic of public education and staunch proponent of policies favoring charter schools, saying in April, during a speech he gave to Hillsdale, “To get universal school choice, you really need to operate from a premise of universal public school distrust.”

Rufo is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a right-wing think tank regularly involved in pushing anti-public school rhetoric whose chairman, hedge fund manager Paul E. Singer, has contributed heavily to charter schools and pro-charter school organizations.

Right-wing media opportunistically follow the lead, tying together anti-LGBTQ alarmism and anti-public school rhetoric 

Seeing a chance to target teachers’ unions, malign public schools, and demonize the LGBTQ community, right-wing media are following the lead of Heritage and outlets like The Federalist, using appeals to “school choice” alongside anti-LGBTQ rhetoric to push a pro-conservative, anti-inclusion agenda.

Media outlets have hosted content from members of the Independent Women’s Forum, an anti-LGBTQ group also backed by the Koch brothers, following this formula. An op-ed titled “School choice can save children from radical gender ideology” appeared in the Washington Examiner in August and called for “Parents desperate to protect emotionally vulnerable children from cultlike indoctrination and secretive gender transitions” to “leave the public school system.”

In October, Fox News’ Fox & Friends First hosted Nicole Solas, a senior fellow for the group, who called for parents to embrace “school choice,” saying that “the only way you’re going to avoid catastrophe with these gender cultists is to leave your school.”

Fox networks continued to amplify rhetoric jointly attacking public schools and LGBTQ inclusion. On the October 26 edition of Fox Business’ Kennedy, host Lisa Kennedy Montgomery used a story on a New Jersey school district defending its protections for trans students to transition into a segment on “School Choice in America.”

The next month, during Fox News’ The Five, co-host Greg Gutfeld said, “Republicans have to further cement themselves as the parents’ party, right, and let the Dems be the party of government interference between mother and father and child. Let them defend activists who pushed gender ideology in preschool, let them be against school choice and in-person learning. Republicans should be the pro-family party because it’s working. When the left calls you racist, what do you call them? Groomers.”

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Mia Gingerich is a researcher at Media Matters. She has a bachelor’s degree in politics and government from Northern Arizona University and has previously worked in rural organizing and local media.

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

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Turning Point USA turns its attention to elementary-schoolers

Amid accusations that Democrats are indoctrinating children, TPUSA launches programming geared toward a K-12 audience

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Graphic by Andrea Austria for Media Matters

 By Alyssa Tirrell | WASHINGTON – A decade ago, Charlie Kirk founded Turning Point USA, whose stated intent is playing “offense with a sense of urgency to win America’s culture war” on high school and college campuses.

Now, the organization has turned its attention to an even younger demographic, announcing the launch of Turning Point Academy, a supposedly  anti-“woke” “educational movement” curriculum which aims to bring conservative values and right-wing talking points into elementary and high school classrooms. 

Recent TPUSA campaigns, which feature at least one K-12 school and incentives for young people to attend the organization’s annual conference, come amid a broader political landscape in which right-wing media and political figures, including Kirk and others associated with TPUSA, have been lobbing false accusations that Democrats are forcing a “woke” agenda on children that amounts to sexual grooming.

On June 7, TPUSA put out a press release announcing that it would be opening its first “brick and mortar” school, Turning Point Academy, in collaboration with Dream City Christian Schools in the Phoenix, Arizona, area. According to the release, “Dream City Christian, a Turning Point Academy,” is the first in a “growing network of schools” that will incorporate the curriculum and structure designed by TPUSA and Kirk.

Dream city

This curriculum attempts to undermine what right-wing figures have identified as threats to conservative education. Rather than arguing that this educational project is apolitical, as other right-wing figures have, Turning Point Academy is proud to announce that it is “Christian, Classical, conservative, church-based and cost-affordable.” Turning Point Academy assures parents that “CRT, postmodernism, ‘Wokeism,’ deconstructionism, queer theory, radical LGBT agendas, and anti-American ideas such as the 1619 project will have no place at our institution” and promises “to never waver from the truth and to teach self-government and liberty to students.” 

Dream City Christian is an existing K-12 private school that claims the “current political and spiritual climate in the country is in turmoil” and that a “well-established biblical worldview is a must for every student.” This combined ethos of Christian education and right-wing politics makes Dream City Christian a clear fit for TPUSA’s particular blend of Christian fundamentalism and Trumpism

While Dream City Christian provides the institution and the location, TPUSA brings its experience campaigning at colleges and high schools across the country. As Kirk said:

“Having been in the educational world for 10 years, we have access to some of the best educational resources, teachers, academics and curriculums this country has to offer. We can bring those to bear as we relaunch Dream City Christian as the first Turning Point Academy, ensuring it is a model for others to follow as we launch additional Turning Point Academies around the country.”

The “educational resources” TPUSA offers include activism kits, original media, and access to a number of conservative speaking events. Alongside Young America’s Foundation, and its campus organization Young Americans for Freedom, TPUSA is a major conservative influence on campuses around the country. 

TPUSA also hosts AmericaFest, a conservative conference that will take place from December 17 to December 20 of this year, featuring speakers including Candace Owens and Matt Walsh. This year’s conference will also include Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), who was the subject of a federal probe due to allegations that he violated federal child sex trafficking laws and whose associate, Joel Greenberg, was recently convicted of charges for similar infractions resulting from the investigation.   

TPUSA has special provisions in place aimed at attracting conservative minors to the event, including reduced ticket prices, hotel accommodations, and travel stipends. At the same time, the organization will host its Educators’ Summit, an event it has advertised to parents and teachers who may be curious about Turning Point Academy.

Americafest

TPUSA’s appeal to the next generation comes while right-wing figures continue to accuse the Democratic Party of indoctrinating students with “woke” curricula and falsely conflate LGBTQ representation in schools with the sexual grooming of young people. In addition to rejecting LGBTQ representation and inclusive curriculum in schools, these conservative influences are often explicitly anti-trans, as in the case of conservative children’s books recently published by Matt Walsh and Steven Crowder. TPUSA, which has long been a conservative influence on college campuses and a pipeline to conservative media outlets across the country, is now highlighting the next frontier of the conservative educational ecosystem: children and minors “15 & under.”

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

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Research/Study

Elon Musk’s Twitter: Anti-LGBTQ hate has increased dramatically

Anti-LGBTQ accounts’ “groomer” rhetoric has exploded in reach since Musk’s takeover – use of the slur has increased over 1200%

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Graphic by Andrea Austria for Media Matters

By Kayla Gogarty | WASHINGTON – A new report from Media Matters and GLAAD shows that since Elon Musk took over as Twitter CEO and plunged the company into chaos with erratic decisions, anti-LGBTQ rhetoric has increased on the platform, despite his claims and actions to the contrary, including disbanding Twitter’s Trust and Safety Council. Media Matters has found that retweets of right-wing figures’ tweets that included the anti-LGBTQ “groomer” slur increased substantially, as did mentions of right-wing figures in tweets containing the slur.

Key findings include:

  • Anti-LGBTQ accounts that saw substantial increases in both retweets of and mentions in tweets with the slur included Tim Pool, Jack Posobiec, Jake Shield, Gays Against Groomers, Blaire White, Allie Beth Stuckey, Andy Ngo, Seth Dillon, and Mike Cernovich. 
  • Collectively, these 9 accounts saw an over 1,200% increase in retweets of tweets with the slur, going from nearly 3,600 to over 48,000, and they saw an over 1,100% increase in mentions in tweets with the slur, going from over 5,300 to more than 65,000.
  • Other right-wing accounts also saw substantial increases of mentions in tweets containing the slur. For instance, Libs of TikTok saw more than a 600% increase in its mentions, going from nearly 2,000 to nearly 14,000, while Rep. Mayra Flores (R-TX) saw a nearly 6,000% increase, going from nearly 70 mentions to over 4,000. 
  • Anti-LGBTQ figure James Lindsay and right-wing satire site Babylon Bee have earned thousands of retweets on posts perpetuating the anti-LGBTQ “groomer” slur and have been mentioned in thousands of tweets referencing the slur since their accounts were reinstated by Musk. 
  • Mentions of prominent LGBTQ accounts in tweets with the “groomer” slur also increased during the time frame, with one account seeing an increase of over 225,000% after Musk officially acquired the platform.
  • Musk is unilaterally reinstating previously banned Twitter accounts, including anti-LGBTQ accounts
  • Elon Musk officially acquired Twitter on October 27 and tried to reassure advertisers and civil rights leaders that the platform wouldn’t “become a free-for-all hellscape” and would “continue to combat hate & harassment.” Despite these assurances, Musk quickly started reinstating previously banned accounts, including those of high-profile right-wing users such as former President Donald Trump. Notably, Musk has also reinstated at least two accounts — those belonging to anti-LGBTQ figure James Lindsay and right-wing satire site Babylon Bee — that previously violated the platform’s rules against hateful content.
  • Prior to Musk’s acquisition, Twitter’s policy against hateful content applied to the term “groomer” when it was used as a descriptor in the context of discussion of gender identity. Right-wing figures, including Lindsay, repeatedly violated this policy, using the slur to harass LGBTQ people. The Babylon Bee was suspended in March after repeatedly misgendering U.S. Assistant Secretary for Health Rachel Levine.
  • Media Matters analyzed Twitter data from the Dewey Square Group (sourced via the Twitter API) and found that since being reinstated, Lindsay earned over 1,700 retweets on his posts perpetuating the anti-LGBTQ “groomer” slur, and he has been mentioned in over 4,700 tweets mentioning the slur. The Babylon Bee has similarly adopted the anti-LGBTQ slur and earned nearly 1,600 retweets on its “groomer”-related posts, and it has been mentioned in over 1,700 related posts.
  • Media Matters found that mentions of right-wing figures in tweets containing the “groomer” slur have increased since Musk’s acquisition
  • Further analysis of the data compared tweets mentioning the anti-LGBTQ slur (“groomer” or “grooming”) during the two months before (September 27 through October 27) and after (from October 28 through November 28) Musk’s acquisition of Twitter. We found that retweets of right-wing figures’ tweets that included the slur increased substantially, as did mentions of right-wing figures in tweets containing the slur.
  • Anti-LGBTQ accounts and figures including Libs of TikTok, Matt Walsh, and Christopher Rufo; prominent conservative politicians such as Reps. Mayra Flores (R-TX), Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), and Lauren Boebert (R-CO), and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott; and right-wing media outlets and personalities Tomi Lahren, Charlie Kirk, the Hodgetwins, Donald Trump Jr., and Fox News all saw significant increases in their mentions in tweets with “groomer” rhetoric during the studied time period.
  • For instance, Libs of TikTok saw more than a 600% increase in the mentions, going from nearly 2,000 to almost 14,000, while Flores saw a nearly 6,000% increase, going from nearly 70 mentions to over 4,000.
  • Right-wing accounts that saw substantial increases in both retweets of and mentions in tweets with anti-LGBTQ rhetoric

Tim Pool

Right-wing YouTuber Tim Pool’s main Twitter account, which has roughly 1.4 million followers, saw an increase of over 2,700% for retweets of tweets with the slur, going from over 700 retweets to more than 20,200. Pool also saw an increase of nearly 3,000% in his mentions in tweets containing the slur, going from more than 1,000 mentions to over 31,000.

Jack Posobiec

Neo-Nazi collaborator Jack Posobiec’s account, which has roughly 1.9 million followers, saw an increase of over 2,800% for retweets of tweets with the slur, going from over 400 retweets to nearly 11,700. Posobiec also saw an increase of over 1,500% in his mentions in tweets containing the slur, going from more than 800 mentions to over 13,300.

Jake Shields

MMA fighter Jake Shields’ account, which has roughly 270,000 followers, saw an increase of more than 9,500% for retweets of tweets with the slur, going from over 60 retweets to more than 5,800. Shields also saw an increase of over 8,000% in his mentions in tweets containing the slur, going from more than 80 mentions to over 6,500.

Gays Against Groomers

Anti-LGBTQ account Gays Against Groomers, which has roughly 140,000 followers, saw an increase of nearly 300% for retweets of tweets with the slur, going from nearly 1,500 retweets to over 5,700. Gays Against Groomers also saw an increase of over 300% in its mentions in tweets containing the slur, going from more than 1,900 mentions to over 7,700.

Blaire White

Right-wing YouTuber Blaire White’s Twitter account, which has roughly 465,000 followers, saw an increase of 3,300% for retweets of tweets with the slur, going from nearly 50 retweets to almost 1,600. White also saw an increase of over 2,500% in her mentions in tweets containing the slur, going from nearly 80 mentions to over 2,100.

Allie Beth Stuckey

Anti-LGBTQ podcaster Allie Beth Stuckey’s account, which has roughly 390,000 followers, saw an increase of over 80,000% for retweets of tweets with the slur, going from 1 retweet to over 800. Stuckey also saw an increase of over 2,500% in her mentions in tweets containing the slur, going from nearly 40 mentions to over 900.

Andy Ngo

Far-right grifter Andy Ngo’s account, which has roughly 1 million followers, saw an increase of  over 70% for retweets of tweets with the slur, going from nearly 500 retweets to over 800. Ngo also saw an increase of more than 50% in his mentions in tweets containing the slur, going from nearly 800 mentions to nearly 1,200.

Seth Dillon

Babylon Bee CEO Seth Dillon’s account, which has roughly 500,000 followers, saw an increase of over 120% for retweets of tweets with the slur, going from over 360 retweets to over 800. Dillon also saw an increase of more than 160% in his mentions in tweets containing the slur, going from nearly 500 mentions to over 1,200.

Mike Cernovich

Rape apologist Mike Cernovich’s account, which has roughly 1 million followers, saw an increase of roughly 66,000% for retweets of tweets with the slur, going from 1 retweet to over 660. Cernovich also saw an increase of over 700% in mentions in tweets containing the slur, going from nearly 120 mentions to over 1,000.

  • LGBTQ accounts have seen substantial increases in mentions in tweets with anti-LGBTQ rhetoric

LGBTQ accounts have also seen an increase in anti-LGBTQ rhetoric targeted against them, including their mentions in tweets with the “groomer” slur — with one account seeing an increase of over 225,000% after Musk officially acquired the platform.

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Kayla is an associate research director at Media Matters, where she has worked since September 2018. She holds a master’s degree in chemistry research from Stony Brook University and has a background in LGBTQ media and advocacy. She previously worked as an LGBTQ opposition researcher at Media Matters and prior to that interned at the Human Rights Campaign

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

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Research/Study

276,000 transgender adults in the U.S. are enrolled in Medicaid

1.3 million adults in the U.S. identify as transgender and approximately 276,000 of them are enrolled in Medicaid

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Los Angeles Blade graphic

LOS ANGELES – An estimated 276,000 transgender adults are enrolled in Medicaid in the U.S., according to a new analysis by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law. Twenty-five states and D.C. have chosen to specifically include coverage for gender-affirming care under their Medicaid programs or are in the process of extending coverage, while 14 states exclude coverage for such care and 18 states have not expressly addressed coverage.

Gender-affirming care includes a range of services, such as surgical procedures, hormone therapy, and other forms of treatment related to gender transition.

KEY FINDINGS

  • 1.3 million adults in the U.S. identify as transgender and approximately 276,000 of them are enrolled in Medicaid.
  • An estimated 60% (164,000) of transgender Medicaid beneficiaries live in states with express policies guaranteeing coverage for gender-affirming care.
  • For 27% (74,000) of transgender Medicaid beneficiaries, coverage is uncertain because they live in states where the laws are silent on coverage for gender-affirming care.
  • The remaining 14% (38,000) of transgender Medicaid beneficiaries do not have access to covered gender-affirming care because they live in states with express bans on coverage.

“This patchwork of protections creates uncertainty for transgender people who are enrolled in Medicaid,” said lead author Christy Mallory, Legal Director at the Williams Institute. “Additional policy changes in states that still have bans or lack clear language addressing coverage would ensure that transgender Medicaid beneficiaries have access to coverage for gender-affirming medical care no matter where they live.”

Read the report

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Research/Study

LGBTQ youth in juvenile correctional settings higher risk for suicide

Girls and youth of color were overrepresented among incarcerated LGBTQ youth: 64% of incarcerated LGBTQ youth were girls

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Campus Kilpatrick juvenile facility Malibu (Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles)

LOS ANGELES – A new study from the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law finds that LGBTQ youth are disproportionally represented in juvenile correctional facilities. The majority of LGBTQ youth held in custody are girls (64%) and youth of color (72%), and they face a significantly greater risk of suicidal ideation, suicide attempt, and self-harm.

Using data from the Minnesota Student Survey, a statewide population survey of youth, researchers from UCLA, Vanderbilt, Brown, and Yale Universities examined the mental health experiences of LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ youth in juvenile correctional facilities and public schools. Results show that compared to straight, cisgender youth in public schools, incarcerated LGBTQ youth were twice as likely to think about suicide, six times more likely to attempt suicide, and nearly four times more likely to engage in self-harm. 

Among incarcerated youth, LGBTQ youth had a greater risk of suicide and self-harm than their straight, cisgender peers.

“LGBTQ youth start with more stressful experiences as children, which lead to adverse mental health outcomes. But rather than being cared for, they end up in juvenile correctional facilities in larger numbers than non-LGBTQ youth,” said study co-author llan H. Meyer, Ph.D., Distinguished Senior Scholar of Public Policy at the Williams Institute. “These youth must manage the stress of a carceral setting while also navigating sexual and gender minority identities, which can increase exposure to violence, bullying, and isolation.”

KEY FINDINGS

  • LGBTQ youth are overrepresented in Minnesota correctional facilities: 29% of youth in correctional facilities identify as LGBTQ compared to 20% of youth in public schools.
  • Girls and youth of color were overrepresented among incarcerated LGBTQ youth: 64% of incarcerated LGBTQ youth were girls compared to 48% of straight, cisgender youth in high schools, and 28% of incarcerated LGBTQ youth were white compared to 73% of straight, cisgender youth in high schools.
  • All youth in correctional facilities as well as LGBTQ youth in public schools showed an elevated risk of suicide ideation, suicide attempt, and self-harm compared to straight, cisgender youth in public schools. However, incarcerated LGBTQ youth had substantially greater risk.
  • Compared to straight, cisgender youth and LGBTQ youth in high schools, LGBTQ youth in correctional facilities reported the highest prevalence of suicide ideation (42%), suicide attempts (38%), and self-harm (58%).
  • More than half (54%) of incarcerated LGBTQ youth reported experiencing four or more adverse childhood experiences, including various forms of abuse, neglect, and household dysfunction. In contrast, 6% of non-LGBTQ youth in public schools reported the same.

“Interventions are needed to reduce pathways to incarceration for LGBTQ youth and to buffer the harmful effects of adverse childhood experiences,” said lead author Kirsty A. Clark, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Health, and Society at Vanderbilt University. “Supportive policies that lessen exposure to minority stressors and increase coping skills in the face of victimization are warranted.”

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Research/Study

Meta still profiting off ads using anti-LGBTQ “groomer” slur

Meta has earned nearly $14,000 on ads using “groomer” rhetoric this year, despite the platform’s ban on hate speech

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Graphic by Andrea Austria for Media Matters

By Camden Carter | WASHINGTON – Media Matters has identified over 150 ads that have run on Meta’s platforms baselessly accusing people of being a “groomer” or “grooming” children, including 94 ads that Meta has failed to remove since our initial reporting last month and 19 additional ads that have been created since, even though Meta has clearly stated that “groomer” rhetoric violates its policies. Ads with harmful “groomer” rhetoric reviewed by Media Matters have earned over 1 million impressions. 

Right-wing media, political figures, and organizations have increasingly pushed the long-debunked myth that LGBTQ people pose a threat to minors and seek to “groom” them, using the baseless smear to attack teachers and progressive figures more broadly. This rhetoric has coincided with a conservative push to create legislation that strips away the rights of LGBTQ people, especially trans people. 

Even though Meta publicly confirmed that use of the word “groomer” to baselessly describe members of the LGBTQ community violates its hate speech policies, the company continues to profit from ads containing this messaging. 

On September 6, Media Matters reported on 134 ads that ran on Meta’s platforms and used “groomer” rhetoric. Since our previous report, Meta has removed 40 of those ads for violating its policies, but 94 remained. 

Now, Media Matters has identified 19 new ads that have run on Meta’s platforms since September 6, meaning the company has allowed a total of over 150 ads that baselessly accuse people of sexually grooming children to run on its platforms so far in 2022. According to data from the Dewey Square Adwatch tool set, these ads have cost a combined total of at least $13,600 and have garnered more than 1 million impressions (the number of times the ads appeared on users’ screens).

From September 6 through October 12, Meta allowed at least 19 new ads to run using “groomer” rhetoric, which cost at least $900 and earned at least 154,000 impressions. These include: 

  • An ad from conservative student group Turning Point USA featured a tweet from the Daily Wire’s Candace Owens stating that she has “no patience for this child groomer movement” and that she “always has the time to protect children.” This ad ran on both Facebook and Instagram and earned at least 20,000 combined impressions. 
An ad from TPUSA using groomer rhetoric
  • The Dallas Express — part of a network of right-wing propaganda sites disguised as local news and run by Metric Media — ran an ad on both Facebook and Instagram promoting its article discussing the group Gays Against Groomers being banned from Venmo and PayPal. The ad referred to the anti-trans group as an “an organization against the sexualization, indoctrination, and medicalization of children.”
An ad from The Dallas Express that ran on Meta platforms using groomer rhetoric
  • Far-right think tank the Claremont Institute ran an ad on both Facebook and Instagram promoting its article titled “Grooming Future Revolutionaries.” The ad claimed that children of military service members are being subjected to “anti-American and anti-family hatred in the name of perverse, dangerous, and false ideologies.” The article itself claims that the K-12 educational curricula on military bases are being “infused with cutting-edge left-wing pedagogical techniques in the service of radical gender ideology” as part of an attempt “to disrupt stable sexual identities.” 
An ad that ran on Meta platforms from the Claremont Institute that uses groomer rhetoric
  • New Jersey’s Holmdel Republican Party ran an ad on Facebook and Instagram that asked voters to support candidates who will oppose “the woke agenda of the Left” and “publicly state their opposition to the States new sex education curriculum which sexualizes our children to advance the agenda of groomers.”
An ad that ran on Meta's platforms from the Holmdel Republican Party using groomer rhetoric
  • Philip Nagel, a Republican running for state Senate in Illinois, has run two ads using false “grooming” rhetoric. One of the ads featured a video in which Nagel claims that he is “fed up and pissed off with the sick perversion that is being pushed on our children” by “a political class full of pedophiles and groomers.”

  • An ad from Idaho gubernatorial candidate Ammon Bundy features a video in which he claims that “our children are being groomed” and that if elected, he will protect children and use “all means necessary to keep them safe from this perverse sexualized ideology.” In 2016, Bundy led an armed occupation of the Malheur wildlife refuge in Oregon, which was aided by the anti-government militia group The Three Percenters. 

Separately, we identified several ads that have run on Meta’s platforms that falsely link the advancement of LGBTQ rights to the supposed normalization of pedophilia in society. (For years, right-wing groups have tried to smear LGBTQ people by falsely associating them with pedophiles.) 

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Camden Carter is a researcher at Media Matters.

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

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