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Anti-LGBTQ+ narrative more than 400% following Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay

Human Rights Campaign & Center for Countering Digital Hate warn of growing influence extremists are wielding online

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The Center for Countering Digital Hate (Photo Credit: Unsplash/Gilles Lambert)

By Henry Berg-Brousseau | WASHINGTON – In the wake of the passage of Florida’s discriminatory “Don’t Say Gay or Trans” bill, extremist politicians and their allies engineered an unprecedented and dangerous anti-LGBTQ+ misinformation campaign that saw discriminatory and inflammatory “grooming” content surge by over 400% across social media platforms, according to a new report released by the Human Rights Campaign and the Center for Countering Digital Hate. 

The report — Digital Hate: Social Media’s Role in Amplifying Dangerous Lies About LGBTQ+ People — reveals that the average number of tweets per day using slurs such as “groomer” and “pedophile” in relation to LGBTQ+ people surged by 406% in the month after the Florida bill was passed, resulting in a sharp spike in online homophobia and transphobia that social media platforms not only failed to crack down on, but also profited from.

The report also reveals that the anti-LGBTQ+ content was largely driven by a small group of extremist politicians and their allies who together are driving a coordinated and concerted campaign to attack LGBTQ+ kids in an effort to rile up extreme members of their base ahead of the midterm elections. According to the report’s findings:

  • In a matter of mere days, just ten people drove 66% of impressions for the 500 most viewed hateful “grooming” tweets — including Gov. Ron DeSantis’s press secretary Christina Pushaw, extremist members of Congress like Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert, and pro-Trump activists like “Libs of TikTok” founder Chaya Raicheck.
  • Posts from these 10 people alone reached more than 48 million views, and the top 500 most influential “grooming” tweets all together were seen 72 million times.
  • The astonishing visibility these posts garnered is a direct result of Twitter’s failure to enforce its own policies banning anti-LGBTQ+ slurs. Twitter failed to act on 99% of the 100 hateful tweets reported to them anonymously by CCDH researchers, even after it had stated ‘grooming’ slurs were against its policies on hate speech.
  • On Facebook and Instagram, 59 paid ads promoted the same narrative. Despite similar policies prohibiting anti-LGBTQ+ hate content on both social media platforms, only one ad was removed.

“As social media platforms fail to enforce their own standards — enabling a wave of online anti-LGBTQ+ hate to grow without restraint — extremists are wielding dangerous influence, seeking to radicalize Americans, incite hate against LGBTQ+ people, and mobilize the extremists within their base ahead of the midterm elections,” said HRC Interim President Joni Madison. “But the rise of this online vitriol doesn’t just have political implications — there are deadly, real world consequences as violent rhetoric leads to stigma, radicalization, and ultimately violence. Nearly one-in-five of any type of hate crime is now motivated by anti-LGBTQ+ bias, and the last two years have been the deadliest for transgender people, particularly Black transgender women. HRC, along with our partners at the Center for Countering Digital Hate, urgently calls on social media companies to act swiftly and transparently to stop the spread of extremist and hateful misinformation, including the grooming narrative.”

“We’re in the middle of a growing wave of hate and demonization targeting LGBTQ+ people – often distributed digitally by opportunistic politicians and so-called ‘influencers’ for personal gain,” said Imran Ahmed, CEO of the Center for Countering Digital Hate. “Online hate and lies reflect and reinforce offline violence and hate. The normalization of anti-LGBTQ+ narratives in digital spaces puts LGBTQ+ people in danger. Facebook and Twitter claim in their rules to prohibit this kind of targeted hate and harassment but they simply don’t enforce those rules on bad actors — rules which are designed to protect others’ rights. The clear message from social media giants is that they are willing to turn a blind eye. LGTBQ+ rights have been transformed after decades of hard-won progress, but progress is fragile unless you continue to defend it.”

Key Findings of the Report

➤ Anti-LGBTQ+ ‘grooming’ rhetoric on social media platforms drastically increased following the passage of Florida’s Don’t Say Gay or Trans law.

  1. Researchers used the social analytics tool BrandWatch to collect a sample of 989,547 tweets posted between January 1 and July 27 that mention the LGBTQ+ community alongside slurs such as “groomer”, “predator” and “pedophile”.
  2. In the month following the passage of the ‘Don’t Say Gay or Trans’ law, the volume of ‘grooming’ related content increased by 406%.
    1. 6,607 tweets a day overall on average, up from 1,307 the month before
    2. 1,385 tweets a day using the phrase “OK groomer” on average, up from 54
    3. 4,053 tweets a day referring to Disney alongside slurs on average, up from 37
  3. In the week following Twitter’s statement that tweets calling transgender or nonbinary people “groomers” violate its policies on hate speech, there were 8,075 tweets per day on average mentioning the slurs alongside the LGBTQ+ community

➤ ‘Grooming’ rhetoric is being spread by a small group of radical extremists as part of a coordinated and concerted effort to attack LGBTQ+ kids to rile up extreme members of their base, the only voting bloc they are moving on these issues, ahead of the midterm elections.

  1. Researchers used BrandWatch to identify the 500 most-viewed hateful ‘grooming’ tweets from our wider sample, which were viewed an estimated 72 million times in total and received 399,260 likes and retweets.
  2. Within this smaller sample, tweets from just ten people were viewed an estimated 48 million times, equivalent to 66% of the reach of the 500 most-viewed tweets. Amongst the top ten people responsible for driving the ‘grooming’ narrative on Twitter are:
    1. Marjorie Taylor Greene – Representative for Georgia’s 14th Congressional District
    2. James Lindsay – “Anti-woke” activist and author
    3. Lauren Boebert – Representative for Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District
    4. Christina Pushaw – Press secretary to Governor of Florida
    5. Frank Drew Hernandez – Contributor to Turning Point USA
  3. The top 500 ‘grooming’ tweets were viewed 72 million times

➤ Meta profits from ads promoting ‘grooming’ narrative on Facebook and Instagram.

  1. Using Meta’s Ad Library, researchers identified 59 ads promoting the narrative that the LGBTQ+ community and its allies are ‘grooming’ children.
  2. Meta accepted up to $24,987 for the ads, which have been served to users over 2.1 million times.
  3. 32 of the 59 ads, receiving 2 million impressions, focus ‘grooming’ accusations on Disney after the company came out in opposition of the ‘Don’t Say Gay or Trans’ bill.
  4. As of August 1, Meta continued to run ‘grooming’ ads despite stating on July 20 that baselessly calling LGBTQ people or the community “groomers” is covered by its hate speech policies.

➤ Hateful content has gone virtually unchecked, despite anti-discrimination polices at Facebook and Twitter.

  1. An audit found that Twitter failed to act on 99% of the 100 hateful tweets reported to them anonymously by CCDH researchers after it had stated ‘grooming’ slurs were against its policies on hate speech.
  2. Just one of the 59 ads promoting the ‘grooming narrative’ was removed by Meta, and the platform has continued to accept such ads after it had stated ‘grooming’ slurs were against its policies on hate speech.

➤ There are real life consequences to anti-LGBTQ+ hate being spread online.

  1. Legislative — Legislators in state houses across the country introduced 344 anti-LGBTQ+ bills this session, and 25 of them passed. These bills and laws attack the LGBTQ+ community, particularly transgender and non-binary young people and their families, preventing them from accessing age-appropriate medical care, playing sports with their friends, or even talking about who they are in school.
  2. Anti-LGBTQ+ Violence — Nearly 1 in 5 of any type of hate crime is now motivated by anti-LGBTQ+ bias; The last two years have been the deadliest for transgender people, especially Black transgender women, we have seen since we began tracking fatal violence against the community.
    1. Reports of violence and intimidation against LGBTQ+ people have been making news across the country: White nationalists targeted a Pride event in Idaho; Proud Boys crashed Drag Queen story hour at a local library in CA to shout homophobic and transphobic slurs.
    2. Mental Health Outcomes: More than 60 percent of LGBTQ+ youth said their mental health has deteriorated as a result of recent efforts to restrict access to things like gender-affirming care for transgender youth.

The full report and dataset can be found on HRC’s website here

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Twitter shareholders ok Elon Musk deal, GLAAD expresses alarm

“Our community is at disproportionate risk for harassment online, which itself has damaging impacts and can also lead to offline harms”

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SAN FRANCISCO – Twitter shareholders voted Tuesday to approve Elon Musk’s $44 billion bid to buy the company and take it private, CNBC reported. The vote comes as the billionaire entrepreneur seeks to scrap the deal, casting doubt on Twitter’s self-reported percentage of fake accounts and alleging the company was not as forthcoming as it should have been with its explanation of the calculation.

The vote comes as Musk seeks to scrap the deal, casting doubt on Twitter’s self-reported percentage of fake accounts and alleging the company was not as forthcoming as it should have been with its explanation of the calculation. Twitter has stood by its figure of less than 5% of monetizable daily active users being spam or fake and has said it’s provided Musk plenty of information meeting the requirements of the deal.

In New York, GLAAD released a statement reacting to the shareholder’s vote expressing alarm in part due to Musk has a record of posting anti-LGBTQ content as well as content targeting other marginalized communities.

In a statement the LGBTQ+ advocacy group noted: “While the outcome of the deal remains uncertain amidst ongoing litigation, GLAAD reiterates that Elon Musk’s previously stated plans for Twitter threaten the safety and best interests of users, society, and democracies around the world.”

“Today, Twitter shareholders voted for profits over people. We are deeply concerned with the safety of LGBTQ people on Twitter and join the voices of other organizations representing marginalized communities to express opposition to Elon Musk’s potential acquisition of the platform,” said GLAAD President and CEO, Sarah Kate Ellis.

“Our community is at disproportionate risk for harassment online, which itself has damaging impacts and can also lead to offline harms. It is critical that Twitter as a company, regardless of ownership, prioritizes policies and content moderation that creates spaces where truth is elevated over dangerous mis- and disinformation and hate,” Ellis added.

GLAAD is one of the founding members of the “Stop the Deal” coalition, a campaign launched in June 2022 by Accountable Tech, Media Matters, UltraViolet and others to warn of the potential dangers of the possible acquisition of Twitter by Elon Musk.

More information is available at StopTheDeal.com.

GLAAD released its inaugural Social Media Safety Index in July, evaluating LGBTQ user safety experience across the social media landscape, showing the entire sector is effectively unsafe for LGBTQ users, with high prevalence and intensity of hate speech and harassment.

The Index provided recommendations for the industry at large and reports on LGBTQ user safety across Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and TikTok.

Read the full report here. 

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‘Ring the Alarm’ podcast on murders of LGBTQ people in Jamaica

Insightful and engaging conversations with LGBTQ men and women, including exclusive interviews from inside a network of secret safe houses

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LOS ANGELES – The fifth episode, in award-winning journalist Jasmyne Cannick’s podcast series ‘Ring the Alarm’ about the murders of LGBTQ people in Jamaica, was released this past week.

18-year-old Keneil grew up in Jamaica, where he was sexually abused at home starting at the age of 8 years old.  Because of the isolation and denial he faced from his mother, and narrowly escaping a murder attempt, Keneil tried to commit suicide several times. After being disowned by his mother, Keneil lived in abandoned buildings with no food.  He recently found housing at the Unity Fellowship Church Jamaica safe house, where he is receiving support and is now awaiting relocation assistance to another country that is more accepting of LGBTQ people.  Through it all, the teenager has managed to smile, remain hopeful, and look forward to living a life where he can be free, even if it means being away from his family and the country he is from.

‘Ring the Alarm’ is a special podcast series of frank conversations with lesbian, gay, and trans men and women in Jamaica about living in one of the most homophobic countries in the world.  Award-winning journalist Jasmyne Cannick shares their challenges, dreams, and aspirations to live a life where they don’t have to fear being murdered for being queer.

Produced in Jamaica, through insightful and engaging conversations with LGBTQ men and women, including exclusive interviews from inside a network of secret safe houses that helps to hide queer Jamaicans until they can be relocated to another country, Jasmyne continues to provide much-needed context while calling attention to the plight of Black queer people in American’s top Caribbean vacation destination.

You can listen to ‘Ring the Alarm’ wherever you get your podcasts. 

To support Unity Fellowship Church Jamaica safe house, donate through Cash App to $UFJamaica or UFJamaica.com.

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About Jasmyne Cannick

Jasmyne Cannick is an award-winning nationally known journalist and on-air contributor who writes and speaks about collisions at the intersection of politics, race, and society. 

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Online Culture

Transphobic hate & doxxing site Kiwifarms blocked by Cloudflare

The company CEO cautioned that Cloudflare’s decision to drop Kiwifarms has the potential to lead to worse scenarios

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SAN FRANCISCO – In a tweet Saturday afternoon, Matthew Prince, the CEO and co-founder of internet content delivery and security services company Cloudflare announced that his firm had blocked Kiwifarms.

Kiwifarms is an American Internet forum dedicated to the inflammatory and often homophobic, racist, or transphobic discussion of online figures and communities it deems “Lolcows,” a portmanteau of the acronym LOL and cow, a derogatory slang term used to describe an individual who is deemed highly exploitable.

The decision to block Kiwifarms stemmed from an ongoing vicious doxxing and hate campaign directed at transgender people, in particular an online gamer and trans creator Clara Sorrenti, best known on Twitch, YouTube and Twitter as Keffals.  The abuse and threats forced Sorrenti to flee her native Ontario, Canada and head to Europe.

Sorrenti calls KiwiFarms a “transphobic hate forum” that she says has doxxed trans and nonbinary people, stalked them and driven some to suicide. Sorrenti herself has been targeted, and swatted—in which a caller makes a false report of extreme violence happening at someone’s address, a harassment tactic that has also been used against Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene

Sorrenti flagged tweets to be masked for “violence” and “sensitive content.” 

One messenger deadnames her, and it only gets worse from there, promising to “beat to death” Sorrenti, “record your dying screams and moans and masturbate to them.”

In his post, Prince noted: “Kiwifarms has frequently been host to revolting content. Revolting content alone does not create an emergency situation that necessitates the action we are taking today. Beginning approximately two weeks ago, a pressure campaign started with the goal to deplatform Kiwifarms. That pressure campaign targeted Cloudflare as well as other providers utilized by the site.”

The campaign Prince referenced was being led by Sorrenti who was organizing a protest for October 18 in San Francisco, where the firm is holding a conference that will be attended by company executives. She’s using a subreddit to organize and the hashtag #DropKiwifarms to spread her message and fight back against hate. 

Cloudflare’s Prince argued in his post that the #dropKiwifarms campaign did not play a prominent role in the decision writing:

“Cloudflare provides security services to Kiwifarms, protecting them from DDoS and other cyberattacks. We have never been their hosting provider. As we outlined last Wednesday, we do not believe that terminating security services is appropriate, even to revolting content. In a law-respecting world, the answer to even illegal content is not to use other illegal means like DDoS attacks to silence it.

We are also not taking this action directly because of the pressure campaign. While we have empathy for its organizers, we are committed as a security provider to protecting our customers even when they run deeply afoul of popular opinion or even our own morals. The policy we articulated last Wednesday remains our policy. We continue to believe that the best way to relegate cyberattacks to the dustbin of history is to give everyone the tools to prevent them.

However, as the pressure campaign escalated, so did the rhetoric on the Kiwifarms site. Feeling attacked, users of the site became even more aggressive. Over the last two weeks, we have proactively reached out to law enforcement in multiple jurisdictions highlighting what we believe are potential criminal acts and imminent threats to human life that were posted to the site.

Prince ended cautioning that Cloudflare’s decision to drop Kiwifarms has the potential to lead to worse scenarios.

Finally, we are aware and concerned that our action may only fan the flames of this emergency. Kiwifarms itself will most likely find other infrastructure that allows them to come back online, as the Daily Stormer and 8chan did themselves after we terminated them. And, even if they don’t, the individuals that used the site to increasingly terrorize will feel even more isolated and attacked and may lash out further. There is real risk that by taking this action today we may have further heightened the emergency.”

The founder of Kiwifarms said that the decision was made by Cloudflare without any discussion with him, according to a Telegram post from Moon, shared by Buzzfeed reporter Ellie Hall on Twitter.

The conflict and controversy over Kiwifarms was part of a larger online war being launched by far-right extremists and hate groups.

This week, The Trevor Project has been besieged by callers flooding their 24/7 hotline. But the calls are not from LGBTQ+ youth in crisis, but allegedly users of 4chan, as the Los Angeles Blade has reported, in a campaign to disrupt their lifesaving work.  

Also this week, LibsofTikTok, aka Chaya Raichik, emerged from a 7-day Twitter suspension, vowing to redouble her attacks on hospitals providing gender-affirming care. Raichik calls that “mutilating the body.” Among her targets: Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C. and Boston Children’s Hospital, which was the subject of a bomb threat Tuesday night. 

Additional reporting by Dawn Ennis

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