As Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill advanced last month, and was signed into law on March 28, right-wing media and politicians ramped up absurd attacks accusing LGBTQ people and the bill’s opponents of “grooming” children to be LGBTQ or to engage in sexual activity. Similar attacks have also appeared on Facebook, where right-leaning pages have dominated discussions of the legislation, particularly after Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed it.
- Between March 1 and April 4, right-leaning Facebook pages posted the most about Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” legislation compared to other news and politics pages, and they also earned the most interactions. Right-leaning pages earned over 9.2 million interactions on nearly 3,700 posts, accounting for nearly 52% of the total posts and over 73% of total interactions.
- Nearly 50% of right-leaning page posts about the anti-LGBTQ legislation made during the study period came on or after March 29 (one day after the bill was signed), and they earned over 6.5 million interactions in just one week.
- Among the posts made since March 29 about the new Florida law that were from the pages we analyzed, 8 of the 10 with the most interactions were from right-leaning pages, and they attacked Disney for speaking out against the legislation and encouraged people to cancel Disney+ subscriptions or boycott the company.
- Between March 1 and April 4, right-leaning pages posted over 250 times pushing “groomer” language or calling the legislation the “Anti-Groomer Bill.” These posts earned over 360,000 interactions.
On March 28, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the “Parental Rights in Education” bill, also known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, into law. The anti-LGBTQ legislation bans discussion of sexuality or gender identity in kindergarten through third grade, though its vague wording could be used to prevent such discussions -- however broadly defined -- at any grade level. The legislation attracted some pushback in the media, among Democratic politicians including President Joe Biden, from celebrities, and from companies such as Disney, which announced opposition to the bill, with a goal of seeing it repealed.
Following DeSantis’ signature and Disney’s announcement, right-wing media ramped up attacks accusing LGBTQ people of “grooming” — using messaging advice from DeSantis press secretary Christina Pushaw, who described the legislation as an “Anti-Grooming Bill.” In the week after it was signed, Fox News spent over 3 hours melting down about Disney's response. These attacks on LGBTQ people were echoed and amplified on Facebook.
Media Matters compiled and analyzed Facebook posts about Florida’s anti-LGBTQ legislation by news and politics pages between March 1 and April 4 and found that right-leaning pages posted more about the legislation than left-leaning or ideologically nonaligned pages during this time frame, and they earned more engagement on their posts.
Right-leaning pages posted nearly 52% of all posts related to the Florida law from U.S. politics and news pages and earned over 73% of total interactions
Media Matters found that most posts about Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill from March 1 through April 4 were from right-leaning Facebook pages, making up nearly 52% of the total posts. Nonaligned pages made roughly 37% of the posts, and left-leaning pages made just over 11% of the total posts.
In total, posts about the new Florida law from news and politics pages on Facebook have garnered over 12.6 million interactions. Right-leaning pages earned over 9.2 million of those interactions (over 73%) on nearly 3,700 such posts. Ideologically nonaligned pages earned nearly 1.9 million interactions (over 15%) for their 2,600 posts, and left-leaning pages earned nearly 1.5 million interactions (just under 12%) for their nearly 800 posts.
After Disney signaled opposition to the new law, discussion of it spiked on Facebook
Most discussion of the legislation, particularly by right-leaning pages, occurred after DeSantis signed it into law on March 28. In fact, nearly 40% of posts about the bill and almost 62% of interactions earned have been in the week since the bill was signed, from March 29 to April 4.
In particular, right-leaning pages posted nearly 50% of their posts about the Florida law since it was signed, earning over 6.5 million interactions — or over 70% of all interactions on related posts from right-leaning pages since March 1. These pages also far outpaced other news and politics pages, which earned only 1.3 million interactions combined on related posts in the week after the bill was signed.
Among the posts made since March 29 about the new Florida law that were from the pages we analyzed, 8 of the 10 with the most interactions have been from right-leaning pages. Each of these 8 posts attacked Disney for speaking out against Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” legislation and encouraged people to cancel Disney+ subscriptions or called on them to boycott the company.
Hundreds of Facebook posts attack pro-LGBTQ opponents of the legislation as “groomers” or call the legislation the “Anti-Groomer Bill”
On March 4, DeSantis press secretary Christina Pushaw described the new “Don’t Say Gay” legislation as “an Anti-Grooming Bill” — pushing an old but persistent myth that LGBTQ people put children in danger.
Right-leaning pages on Facebook, particularly those for right-wing media outlets and personalities, quickly took to Pushaw’s messaging. In fact, there are over 250 posts from right-leaning pages since March 1 that include “groomer” language or call the legislation the “Anti-Groomer Bill,” earning over 360,000 interactions.
The top 10 posts from right-leaning pages pushing this language are:
Using CrowdTangle, Media Matters compiled a list of 1,773 Facebook pages that frequently posted about U.S. politics from January 1 to August 25, 2020.
For an explanation of how we compiled pages and identified them as right-leaning, left-leaning, or ideologically nonaligned, see the methodology here.
The resulting list consisted of 771 right-leaning pages, 497 ideologically nonaligned pages, and 505 left-leaning pages.
Every day, Media Matters also uses Facebook's CrowdTangle tool and this methodology to identify and share the 10 posts with the most interactions from top political and news-related Facebook pages.
Using CrowdTangle, Media Matters compiled all posts for the pages on this list that were posted from March 1 through April 4, 2022, and were related to Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” legislation. We reviewed data for these posts, including total interactions (reactions, comments, and shares).
We defined posts as related to Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” legislation if they had any of the following terms in the message or in the included link, article headline, or article description: “Groomer,” “Disney,” “Parental Rights in Education,” “Don’t Say Gay,” “happiest place on earth,” “pedophile,” “pedophilia,” “anti-groomer,” “save our children,” “saveourchildren,” “pedo,” “save the children,” “grooming,” “groom,” “grooms,” “groomers,” “pedophiles,” “pedos,” “savethechildren,” “Disney+,” or “Disney’s.”
We excluded any posts that had any of the following terms, to avoid encompassing unrelated discussion of Disney: “Magic Kingdom,” “EPCOT,” “Hollywood Studios,” “Animal Kingdom,” “Typhoon Lagoon,” or “Blizzard Beach.” We also removed unrelated posts about Ukraine, animal grooming, and weddings.