Anti-LBGTQ hate online surged after Florida’s Don’t Say Gay law passed – 71Bait

According to a new report, digital hatred against the LGBTQ+ community — often from Republican lawmakers or their spokespersons — surged after Florida passed its controversial “Don’t Say Gay” law.

The sharp rise in hateful rhetoric against gay, lesbian, transgender and non-binary people has centered on the false accusation that LGBTQ+ people are “grooming” children, researchers at the Center for Countering Digital Hate found. (Grooming means befriending or bonding with a child with intent to sexually abuse.)

The law, officially titled Parental Rights in Education, was signed into law by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on March 28. It bans teaching about sexual orientation or gender identity to students in kindergarten through 3rd grade.

Overall, the research suggests that a right-wing narrative that portrays schools as sites of gender indoctrination is now having a broader impact on LGBTQ people and youth.

On Facebook, the researchers identified 59 ads promoting the “grooming” narrative that were purchased between March and August and totaled more than 2.1 million views.

In the month following the passage of the law, the volume of tweets addressing the “grooming” discourse increased by 406 percent, according to the report. The top 500 tweets driving the “grooming” narrative have been viewed at least 72 million times.

“The law that liberals mistakenly call ‘don’t say gay’ would be more properly called an anti-grooming law,” Christina Pushaw, press secretary for DeSantis, tweeted in March. “If you oppose the Anti-Grooming Bill, chances are you’re a groomer, or at least don’t oppose the grooming of 4-8 year old children.”
Pushaw drew criticism for the tweet, and when questioned by the Associated Press about the report, she said her tweets were not directed at LGBTQ people and that groomers could be of all genders and sexual identities.

Pushaw and other prominent Republicans, such as U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., and U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., along with some pro-Trump activist accounts, pulled in 66 percent of the impressions, which the total is the number of times a tweet was viewed for the top 500 hateful “care” tweets. These 10 people’s posts alone garnered more than 48 million views, according to the report.

“Bad actors have used digital spaces extensively in recent years to normalize hateful narratives and misinformation narratives,” said Imran Ahmed, CEO of the Center for Countering Digital Hate, a nonprofit organization that exposes and combats hate and disinformation online.

“When you see something a lot, you think, ‘Well, it must be more normal than I think.’ So it normalizes those bad ideas.”

For the most part, Twitter and Facebook did not try to stop the spread of hateful anti-LGBTQ rhetoric, the researchers found. Twitter didn’t respond to 99 percent of the 100 hateful tweets reported to them anonymously by CCDH researchers, even after it said “care” slurs violated its hate speech policy. And just one of the 59 ads promoting the “care story” was removed by Meta (formerly Facebook). The platform has continued to accept such ads after declaring that “nurturing” slurs violated its hate speech policy.

“At the moment, no platform can be held liable for any damage caused by them,” said Ahmed. “And that situation has led to a mindset within Big Tech that they have no moral obligation as well as no legal obligation, although of course they benefit from that hatred. They allow their platforms to be used in a way that fuels hatred into the mainstream and poisons our discourse in general, and which of course has real human rights impact on LGBTQ+ people.”

The direct offline consequences of online hatred towards the LGBTQ+ community are difficult to assess because it is unclear who is reading these tweets, Ahmed said. However, research shows that LGBTQ students are far less likely to self-harm or experience anxiety or depression when their homes, schools and the wider community acknowledge it, according to the Trevor Projecta resource on suicide prevention and crisis intervention for LGBTQ youth.

Several states have followed in the footsteps of the Florida legislature and have introduced laws restricting classroom conversations about gender identity and sexual orientation, which teams trans students can play on, what healthcare and counseling resources LGBTQ students have access to, and even which ones toilets you can use .

Ninety-three percent of transgender and non-binary youth said they were concerned about transgender people being denied access to gender-affirming medical care because of state or local, state or local laws, and 83 percent said they Concerned about transgender people being denied opportunities to exercise because of state or local laws, according to the Trevor Project’s 2022 Mental Health Survey.
This year, the nonprofit surveyed nearly 34,000 LGBTQ youth ages 13 to 24 across the United States.

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