Anti-gay evangelical leader Tony Perkins has apparently been advising Facebook on its policies regarding political speech.
The social media giant has been reaching out to the founder of the anti-gay Family Research Council — designated an extremist group by the Southern Poverty Law Center — as well as other right-wing organizations, the Wall Street Journal reports.
In addition to “behind-the scenes lobbying” from groups on Facebook’s policing of political speech and abusive content, the tech company also “privately sought advice from the Family Research Council… and its president Tony Perkins.”
Perkins has a long history of anti-LGBTQ statements, including last year arguing that decriminalizing homosexuality was a “mistake.”
He also called for the impeachment of former Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy for authoring the Obergefell decision legalizing same-sex marriage, has advocated for conversion therapy, and compared LGBTQ advocates to terrorists.
He has also derided transgender-inclusive restroom policies adopted by businesses like Target, has compared the fate of Christians living in a society where LGBTQ rights are respected to the plight of Jews during the Holocaust, and insists that pedophilia is “a homosexual problem.”
In addition, he has used his position at FRC to promote laws restricting LGBTQ adoption, oppose the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and advocate for Uganda’s “Kill the Gays” law that doles out punishments for homosexuality.
Facebook declined to comment on Perkins’ advisory role, but it’s the latest in a long line of hits to the company’s reputation — particularly with regards LGBTQ issues.
Last October, Facebook was forced to apologize after repeatedly blocking LGBTQ adverts on the site for being “political.”
A filtering system designed to limit Russian-bought adverts repeatedly categorized LGBTQ advertisements as “political,” and blocked them from being distributed to users.
Flags were raised by a number of organizations, including the LGBT Network, which said about 15 adverts were blocked, with chief executive David Kilmnick telling the Washington Post, “We were completely targeted simply because we were LGBT for what we’re advertising — ads that promote our programs that help support the community and celebrate pride.”
In March last year, Facebook removed the ability to target adverts by sexual orientation, a move that was met with mixed reaction by LGBTQ organizations.
Some argued that being able to target adverts allowed them to better reach LGBTQ people, but a GLAAD spokesperson told Buzzfeed News that removing the ability to target by sexuality was a “fair compromise” that would prevent LGBTQ people being target with anti-LGBTQ adverts.
Just such an abuse was discovered to be occurring in August 2018, after an OpenDemocracy report found an evangelical Christian group was targeting LGBTQ people with “dehumanizing” conversion therapy adverts.
Following an investigation by OpenDemocracy’s 50.50, both Facebook and YouTube found that anti-LGBTQ group Anchored North had violated advertising rules covering content that discriminates against users.