Meta, the parent company of Facebook, Instagram, and Threads, has allowed an anti-LGBTQ+ group to spread hate speech and misinformation about LGBTQ+ people on its platforms in violation of the company’s policies for over a year, according to a new report from Media Matters for America.
The report, published by the media watchdog organization on Tuesday, details dozens of instances in which Gays Against Groomers used its Facebook, Instagram, and Threads accounts to post anti-LGBTQ+ content, including false claims that trans people are mentally ill and that LGBTQ+ people embrace pedophilia, as well as misinformation about gender-affirming care and the false “groomer” narrative propagated by the anti-LGBTQ+ right.
All of this content appears to clearly violate Meta’s policies prohibiting hate speech, harassment and misinformation, and yet it has remained on the company’s platforms. As the report notes, Meta has also vowed to label false and misleading information as such and deprioritize it in feeds. But the company has failed to do so on Gays Against Groomers’s posts.
The report notes that Instagram in particular has a well-documented history of failing to moderate harmful content, especially when it comes to attacks on the LGBTQ+ community.
“It’s an age-old problem that we’ve seen with Meta,” Media Matters research director Kayla Gogarty told The Advocate. Gogarty noted changes Elon Musk has made to Twitter, rebranded as X, since taking over the company last year. Last December, the company disbanded its Trust & Safety Council, which advised on the removal of hateful content.
“One of my biggest concerns is that they’re seeing Elon Musk’s kind of backsliding on enforcement and things like that [and] they’re seeing that almost as a permission structure for them to also backslide,” Gogarty said.
Gays Against Groomers’s very name and raison d’etre appear to be in violation of Meta’s hate speech policies. In July 2022, the company confirmed to The Daily Dot that baseless accusations of “grooming” aimed at LGBTQ+ people are governed under its policies prohibiting hate speech.
Launched in June 2022, Gays Against Groomers purports to be a “grassroots” coalition dedicated to “protecting children.” But as Media Matters reported in February, the group’s founder Jaimee Michell and its former chair and co-founder David Leatherwood “were pro-Trump operatives employed by right-wing communications firms representing other conservative figures who have attempted to capitalize off of the anti-LGBTQ fervor of the last two years.” In January, the Anti-Defamation League described the group as “an anti-LGBTQ+ extremist coalition” based on its peddling of “dangerous and misleading narratives about the LGBTQ+ community.” The Southern Poverty Law Center has also has also labeled Gays Against Groomers as “an extremist group.”
Since its June 6, 2022, launch, the group’s Instagram account has amassed over 357,000 followers. It has around 39,000 followers on Facebook and over 24,000 followers on Threads. While the group has been kicked off of platforms like Venmo, Paypal, and Google and has been suspended on Twitter multiple time prior to Musk’s takeover, Meta’s platforms have taken no action against its accounts. The group’s Facebook account was briefly suspended last week, but a source told The Daily Dot that the suspension was an error.
“Facebook, Instagram, and Threads are some of the few mainstream platforms that have not banned Gays Against Groomers, even though the group seems to have repeatedly violated the platforms’ policies,” the Media Matters report states.
In fact, Meta has profited off of ads promoting the false “groomer” narrative, despite publicly stating that use of the term to attack LGBTQ+ people violates its policies. An August 2022 report from the Center for Countering Digital Hate and the Human Rights Campaign found that the company accepted up to $24,987 for 59 ads promoting the narrative on Facebook and Instagram. The following October, Media Matters identified over 150 ads featuring the slur that ran on Meta’s platforms.
According to The Advocate, a spokesperson for Meta said that examples of Gays Against Groomers posts documented in the Media Matters report were “non-violating.”
“If someone were to use the term ‘groomer’ as an attack against someone based on being part of the LGBTQ+ community, it violates our hate speech policies,” the Meta spokesperson clarified.