Instagram is allowing accounts with tens of thousands of followers to target the LGBTQ community, even though the platform claims it has policies against hate speech as well as bullying and harassment, and its parent company Meta has been publicly promoting its platforms as a safe space for LGBTQ users.
Instagram’s guidelines claim the platform wants “to foster a positive, diverse community,” while also noting that it removes content that contains “credible threats or hate speech, content that targets private individuals to degrade or shame them.” During Pride Month, Meta announced it was “celebrating pride” by launching Pride-themed stickers and avatars, a Global LGBTQ+ Cultural Guide, and an LGBTQ+ Safety Hub.
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. In several cases, these are accounts dedicated to targeting LGBTQ people, while in others, these are accounts of right-wing media outlets and personalities who also push anti-LGBTQ rhetoric. Many of these posts seem to violate Meta’s policies.
Recently, right wing media have been ramping up their rhetoric against the LGBTQ community, especially trans people. This increase in anti-LGBTQ hate has coincided with a wave of new legislation aimed at limiting the rights of LGBTQ people. 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.
Here are some examples of accounts who push anti-LGBTQ content on Instagram:
- One account which goes by the handle Garbage Human has multiple backup accounts, with a total of over 180,000 total followers across all accounts. On its main account, it frequently posts content intended to incite mocking and hateful comments about its subjects, who are often LGBTQ people. Media Matters has reported on this account and other similar accounts in the past, showing that the way they operate allows them to strategically avoid Instagram’s content moderation, while creating a space for the accumulation of hate speech. One of the accounts earned over 1.5 million interactions on 225 posts in the month of June alone — according to data from CrowdTangle.
- Notorious for targeting schools, Pride events, and individuals on Twitter, Libs of TikTok has also gained a large following of nearly 200,000 on Instagram, where it posts much of the same content and plays a large role in driving the false “groomer” narrative. During Pride Month, Libs of TikTok posted 91 times, earning close to 700,000 interactions on Instagram.
- Gays Against Groomers is a new account that has accumulated over 57,000 followers since it was created on June 6 and has earned just over 140,000 interactions on its 33 Instagram posts in June. This account claims to represent “a coalition of gays against the sexualization and indoctrination of children,” thus far using its platform to post content that demonizes trans people and push far-right narratives.
- The creator of Gays Against Groomers, Jaimee Michell, has ties to Arsenal Media — a media group that helps conservative politicians “go viral.” She has also built a significant Instagram following of her own by branding herself as an outspoken right-wing lesbian and pushing anti-trans rhetoric. While Michell’s main account has recently gone private, preventing Media Matters from determining her total interactions for June, it appears that she posted at least 24 times.
- David Leatherwood, who also has ties to Arsenal Media, has also used Instagram to attack transgender people, calling them “groomers.” During Pride Month, Leatherwood posted 16 times and earned over 32,000 interactions. In one of the examples below, Leatherwood uses a photo of a cisgender woman at a burlesque show to reinforce this false narrative. LGBTQ Nation has previously reported on the misinformation around the photo and its use by conservatives to fearmonger about drag shows.
- Conservative commentator Allie Beth Stuckey and The Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro and Matt Walsh (who used the platform to promote his anti-trans film What is a Woman?), with over 5 million followers between them, have been permitted to post content containing hate-fueled lies about the LGBTQ community, driving attention and engagement through their often-extreme rhetoric.
- Conservative outlets and organizations such as The Babylon Bee — which was suspended from Twitter for intentionally misgendering U.S. Assistant Secretary for Health Rachel Levine — have been allowed to remain on the platform. The Bee’s CEO Seth Dillion also remains on Instagram despite frequent anti-trans posts. Similarly, PragerU, a right-wing propaganda network that also has a history of using social media to spread misinformation about transgender people, uses Instagram to share its anti-LGBTQ content.
While some queer users are profitable for Instagram, especially during the month of June, its ongoing failure to address accounts actively spreading harmful rhetoric against the LGBTQ community make the platform’s “Happy Pride” messaging hollow. Once again, Meta is showing that it will prioritize the engagement that these high-profile right-wing accounts generated through hateful, lie-filled content, even when it leads to real-world harm and the degradation of LGBTQ rights and safety.