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META SUSPENDS INSTAGRAM PAGE OF ‘GAYS AGAINST GROOMERS’
- Last updated: October 25, 2023
TikTok, Google, Venmo Previously Suspended Accounts as ADL and SPLC Identify ‘Gays Against Groomers’ as an Extremist Group
(New York, NY — October 25, 2023) GLAAD, the world’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) media advocacy organization released background and context on Meta’s suspension of the “Gays Against Groomers” Instagram page. The suspension was implemented one month after Meta’s three-day suspension of the main “Gays Against Groomers” Facebook page in September. “Gays Against Groomers” regularly posts anti-LGBTQ hate and disinformation and directs harassment at the LGBTQ community, in violation of Meta’s Community Standards.
“All social media companies should enforce their own policies,” said a GLAAD spokesperson. “All of the platforms have policies which clearly prohibit anti-LGBTQ hate content, and such policies exist for a reason. To protect all users from being targeted by or exposed to content that diminishes their safety or that negatively impacts the usability of the platform.”
“As highlighted in GLAAD’s 2023 Social Media Safety Index report, the anti-LGBTQ ‘groomer’ trope, and similar baseless and dangerous rhetoric falsely asserting that LGBTQ people are threats to children, is dangerous hate speech which has been popularized to foment fear and hatred, and ultimately violence, against LGBTQ people and the LGBTQ community — specifically on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation. This is in direct violation of the hate speech policies of all major social media platforms and it is causing real-world harm.”
Additional Background on “Gays Against Groomers”
The Daily Dot broke the news in September that, according to Meta, the Facebook page had been “suspended in error” but was restored late in the day on Friday, September 22nd. The page was down for three days, with an official Facebook message saying: “This content isn’t available right now.” The most recent previous post had been on September 19th. The group’s corollary accounts all remained active on the company’s Instagram and Threads platforms. Various additional regional “chapter” accounts were unaffected and also remain active across Meta platforms. (In May 2022 Meta similarly suspended and then reinstated the anti-LGBTQ Libs of TikTok account from Instagram — reportedly due to copyright claims).
As of October 2023, Google, Google Pay, PayPal, Venmo, Printful and Wix.com have all suspended or cut ties with “Gays Against Groomers” due to it being in violation of the hate speech clauses in their terms of service. Also, in the fall of 2022, TikTok suspended the account entirely; accounts newly created by “Gays Against Groomers” in July 2023 were swiftly suspended by TikTok as well.
Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and Anti-Defamation League (ADL) Identified “Gays Against Groomers” as an Anti-LGBTQ Extremist Group
The ADL Center on Extremism has identified “Gays Against Groomers” (GAG) as “an anti-LGBTQ extremist coalition,” explaining that: “While GAG claims that they cannot be anti-gay or anti-lesbian as they themselves identify as gay or lesbian, ADL’s definition of anti-LGBTQ+ extremism includes any person who pushes false claims and conspiracy theories about all or parts of the LGBTQ+ community, regardless of how they personally identify.” “Gays Against Groomers” is also characterized by the Southern Poverty Law Center as “an extremist group.” The group’s co-founders have a long history of peddling hate-driven lies and conspiracy theories, as documented in a February 2023 Los Angeles Blade article: “Conspiracy theorists & right-wing created Gays Against Groomers.”
The leaders of “Gays Against Groomers” continue to reportedly have ties to known extremists including the Proud Boys: Rally with 20 Proud Boys members (a neo-Nazi group) in Fort Lauderdale, FL (December 2022); Affiliation with Proud Boys in Redlands, CA (December 2022); Affiliation with the Proud Boys in Hollywood, CA (September 2022). Additional examples of affiliation with Proud Boys can be found here. Additional extremist connections reportedly include: Affiliation with white nationalist John Fournace who made threats to attendees of a 21+ drag show: “Most of us want to kill all of you!” And: Affiliation with QAnon and California’s Central Valley Militia. Recent examples of real-world harassment include: Vandalism in Los Angeles with anti-trans hate messages (April 2023); Harassment of Washington University’s Transgender Center (March 2023); Harassment of a drag show in Vancouver, Washington (March 2023).
In an example of how the account’s incitement has led to real world violence, after gay New York City Councilmember Erik Bottcher spoke out against protesters of a Drag Story Hour event, the “Gays Against Groomers” Instagram account posted video of Councilmember Bottcher with the inciting caption: “Sorry groomers, but we won’t stop until YOU’RE stopped.” On December 19, 2022, Councilmember Bottcher’s office hallway was vandalized by attackers who told Bottcher’s staff that they were from “Gays Against Groomers”, Bottcher told The Advocate. Two hours later, the Councilmember was targeted with anti-gay graffiti outside his apartment building and false claims against him; in the same incident members of the group physically assaulted the Councilmember’s neighbor. Three people were arrested in the incident and charged with assault and harassment.
Anti-LGBTQ “Groomer” Trope on Social Media and Real-World Harms
The weaponization of lies targeting historically marginalized groups has a long and terrible history and the spread of this dangerous conspiracy theory — being used to attack LGBTQ-inclusive policies, people, and allies — is leading to devastating real-world harm ranging from harassment and vandalism to physical attacks and bomb threats.
In a report released in June, GLAAD and the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism documented more than 350 incidents of harassment, vandalism and assault over an eleven-month period from June 2022 through April 2023; a follow-up report documented 145 incidents of anti-LGBTQ hate and extremism nationwide during June 2023 alone.
As a January 2023 Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD) Global report summarizes: “Around the world today, the use of the term ‘groomer’ is used to justify hate, discrimination and violence against the LGBTQ+ community. In the US particularly, the use of this language, along with conspiratorial thinking around queer people, has led to legislation preventing the discussion of LGBTQ+ issues in schools and preventing trans children from accessing gender affirming healthcare, and has motivated attacks on LGBTQ+ individuals.”
Anti-LGBTQ “Groomer” Slur Prohibited by Meta Hate Speech Policy But Not Regularly Enforced
Referencing Meta’s previous failures to enforce their hate speech policy with regard to the anti-LGBTQ “groomer” slur, GLAAD’s 2023 Social Media Safety Index noted that: “the spread of this dangerous lie has been facilitated by social media platforms, including Meta, that have publicly acknowledged such rhetoric as hate speech, while privately allowing (and by extension endorsing) such targeted anti-LGBTQ bigotry to proliferate.”
Meta’s hate speech policy clearly states: “Do not post: Content targeting a person or group of people… on the basis of their aforementioned protected characteristic(s) [including gender identity and sexual orientation] with: Dehumanizing speech or imagery in the form of comparisons, generalizations, or unqualified behavioral statements (in written or visual form) to or about:… Sexual predators.” The company also prominently highlights this policy in their “Gender Identity Policy and User Tools” resource on the Meta LGBTQ+ Safety page (created in March 2023): “PC [protected characteristic] groups are protected from: Dehumanization (such as comparing people on the basis of their PC to filth, animals or sexual predators).”
In July 2022, numerous social media platforms, including Meta, told The Daily Dot that: “baselessly calling LGBTQ people or the community ‘groomers’ or accusing them of ‘grooming’ is governed under their policies prohibiting hate speech.”
Meta Profits from Anti-LGBTQ “Groomer” Slur
According to an August 2022 report from the Center for Countering Digital Hate and the Human Rights Campaign, malicious usage of the dangerous and inciting anti-LGBTQ groomer trope surged by 400% across social media in 2022. The report also notes that: “Meta (Facebook) is profiting from ads promoting rhetoric that the LGBTQ+ community and its allies are ‘grooming’ children. CCDH identified at least 59 ads promoting this rhetoric – which have been served to users over 2.1 million times.”
A subsequent February 2023 Media Matters report revealed the company’s continuing generation of revenue from such content: “Meta has profited from over 200 ads using the anti-LGBTQ ‘groomer’ slur, even though the platform claims it prohibits the term.”
All Major Social Media Platforms Failing on LGBTQ Safety
The third annual GLAAD Social Media Safety Index & Platform Scorecard was released in June 2023. After reviewing the platforms on 12 LGBTQ-specific indicators, all platforms received low and failing scores:
- Instagram: 63%
- Facebook: 61%
- TikTok: 57%
- YouTube: 54%
- Twitter: 33%
Key findings of the 2023 Social Media Safety Index included:
- Anti-LGBTQ rhetoric on social media translates to real-world offline harms.
- Platforms are largely failing to mitigate this dangerous hate and disinformation and inadequately enforce their own policies.
- There is a lack of true transparency reporting from the platforms.
About the GLAAD Social Media Safety program:
GLAAD’s Social Media Safety program actively researches, monitors, and reports on a variety of issues facing LGBTQ social media users — with a focus on safety, privacy and expression — advocating for solutions in numerous realms. The annual Social Media Safety Index (SMSI) provides recommendations for the industry at large and reports on LGBTQ user safety across the five major social media platforms: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and TikTok. Learn more by reading the annual GLAAD Social Media Safety Index & Platform Scorecard here.
About GLAAD: GLAAD rewrites the script for LGBTQ acceptance. As a dynamic media force, GLAAD tackles tough issues to shape the narrative and provoke dialogue that leads to cultural change. GLAAD protects all that has been accomplished and creates a world where everyone can live the life they love. For more information, please visit www.glaad.org or connect with GLAAD on Facebook and Twitter.
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