Metro Weekly

Anti-LGBTQ Posts Proliferated on Facebook, Instagram During Pride Month

Watchdog slams social media platforms' failure to cull anti-LGBTQ content, but parent company Meta argues such content has been removed.

Facebook and Instagram icons – Photo: Todd Franson.

A media watchdog organization claims Facebook and Instagram allowed anti-LGBTQ content and misinformation to flourish during pride month. 

A recent study conducted by Media Matters for America, which monitors right-wing misinformation in media, claims that Facebook and Instagram’s parent company, Meta, allowed over 3,000 homophobic or transphobic posts to remain on its platforms during June, despite policies allegedly prohibiting hateful speech and anti-LGBTQ attacks.

Facebook and its parent company Meta had eagerly promoted Pride Month, adding Pride features on the platform, claiming to amplify LGBTQ creators, and reiterating the company’s supposed commitment to supporting LGBTQ people and to eliminating hate speech targeting them,” the report reads. “But Facebook has regularly failed to remove the dangerous and dehumanizing hate speech and misinformation targeting LGBTQ people coming from right-wing outlets, figures, and groups.”

A large amount of the hateful posts were made by right-wing media outlets, the study found. Over 40% of these posts were coming from three pages alone: The Blaze, The Western Journal, and The Daily Wire — all conservative outlets that frequently criticize recognition of LGBTQ rights, especially transgender rights.

According the Media Matters, the sites would post a story with an anti-LGBTQ slant or sensationalizing certain developments related to LGBTQ issues, which would then be picked up by smaller right-wing accounts, giving it more exposure and interactions. The pages also utilized right-wing celebrities like Marjorie Taylor Greene and Ben Shapiro to increase web traffic and interaction with posts.

“Typically they use the algorithm and these networks of pages to amplify this content that maybe they put on their website, but then is amplified on Facebook,” Kayla Gogarty, the deputy research director for Media Matters.

Gogarty explained that these pages began to ramp up anti-LGBTQ content just as Florida passed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. The sensationalist stories attacking LGBTQ people have utilized Facebook’s systems to amplify their voices, despite complaints from LGBTQ advocates that the algorithm is promoting hateful and wrong information.

“We’ve seen Facebook purposely decide not to tweak an algorithm so that [places like] The Daily Wire are not upset,” she said. “Profit is very clearly their number one priority.”

The study also claims that anti-LGBTQ posts have real consequences. Right-wing media channels on the platform are creating unsafe narratives surrounding LGBTQ people, claiming that they are “predators” who are “grooming” children, either to make them become gay or trans themselves or to encourage them to partake in sexual activity by bombarding them with sexually-explicit content.

These conspiracy theories and homophobic attacks have caused multiple LGBTQ-themed events across the country to be disrupted or threatened by right-wing, anti-LGBTQ, and neo-Nazi activists or canceled in response to threats of violence.

According to Media Matters, more than 350 of the over 3,000 posts total found on these pages targeting the LGBTQ community used sensationalized stories on drag queen events and children’s safety. These stories falsely portray drag queens as predators and have caused an increase in confrontations at these events, including the Proud Boys, a neo-fascist group that tries to provoke political violence, storming a library over a Drag Queen Story Hour, and protesting outside of another library for a similar event.

The issue is not confined to Facebook either, Media Matters argues. Just as Meta began to post resources for LGBTQ people during pride, Instagram, which is also owned by Meta, saw a major uptick in anti-LGBTQ content. 

“Despite Meta’s newly announced resources, Instagram has allowed its users to spread propaganda against the LGBTQ community — and even against the same individuals it’s publicly celebrating,” the report said. 

The report argues that anti-LGBTQ misinformation shapes opinions of not only conservative activists, but lawmakers, who then propose legislation targeting the LGBTQ community. It claims this legislation could lead to more oppressive laws, and has already resulted in anti-LGBTQ legislation or executive orders in Florida, Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi.

Additionally, school districts or library boards in various states have attempted to ban books with LGBTQ content from classrooms and public libraries, and sensational headlines about a Pride Month event in a Dallas gay bar have Florida and Texas lawmakers considering bills to remove children from the custody of parents who allow them to attend events like Drag Queen Story Hours.

The false narratives right-wing figures are spinning to support these bills are being projected through online platforms and news outlets and have already led to real-world harm,” Media Matters claims.

Meta declined an interview, but responded to the allegations of anti-LGBTQ content, writing in an email to Metro Weekly: “We’ve investigated and removed the content that violates our policies.”

A solution to escalating anti-LGBTQ content on their sites starts with a simple “tweak,” followed by decisive action Meta should have taken as the posts came to light, says Gogarty. 

They need to tweak down this sensational and divisive content that’s currently rewarded from its algorithm. Obviously, accurate information is more important,” Gogarty said. “There are policies against this sort of speech. And they’re either very narrowly interpreting that policy, or just flat out not enforcing it.”

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