Meta confirmed last July that use of the word “groomer” to baselessly describe LGBTQ people violates its hate speech policies, but Media Matters has identified over 200 ads that Meta has profited from that contain the harmful messaging — including 63 new ads that garnered nearly 1 million impressions.
Right-wing media's misuse of the term “groomer” has helped fuel a recent rise in anti-LGBTQ sentiment and coincided with a conservative push to enact legislation that strips away the rights of LGBTQ people, especially transgender people. Meta publicly confirmed in July that, as The Daily Dot explained, “baselessly calling LGBTQ people or the community ‘groomers’ or accusing them of ‘grooming’ is governed under their policies prohibiting hate speech.”
Media Matters has previously reported on Meta’s failure to enforce its hate speech policy, identifying over 150 ads that Meta allowed to run on its platforms in 2022 even though they use “groomer” rhetoric. Following this reporting, Meta removed 47 of these ads for violating the company’s Advertising Standards. Our latest analysis found that the company has allowed another 63 ads with similar anti-LGBTQ language on its platforms since our last report was published last October. These 63 ads garnered nearly 1 million impressions and Meta earned at least $6,400 in revenue, according to data from the Dewey Square Adwatch tool set.
Meta continues to allow nearly 70% of the “groomer”-related ads that we identified in our previous reports including ads from politicians, who are not subject to the same level of fact-checking that applies to other content and advertisements on the platforms. The ads that Meta removed after our reporting were from numerous pages, including the anti-LGBTQ organization American Principles Project, conservative Christian group Truth & Liberty Coalition, Tomball Family Values, Jeff Younger for Texas, Gender Critical Greens PAC, and Oklahoma state Senate candidate Jarrin Jackson.
The company has also allowed 63 new ads that push anti-LGBTQ groomer rhetoric and are similar to the ads Meta removed. These advertisements — many of which are from right-wing candidates and organizations — include the following:
- Eric Deters, a Kentucky Republican gubernatorial candidate, ran at least two ads saying that he “believes in no grooming and sexualization” and “no boys playing girls sports.”
- Texas Scorecard ran at least 2 ads that included a video claiming that “if you plant the seed of transgenderism,” the “child is now sexually activated” and “now you opened the door for Satan to mess with that child’s mind." At another point, the video asserted that “groomer has become cliche” and “they’re trying to recruit this younger generation,” which has led to a rise in children coming out.
- SoCal Daily Pulse ran at least 9 ads which falsely claimed that Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA) “called pedophilia a ‘sexual orientation.'” PolitiFact, a Meta-approved third-party fact-checker, rated this claim “Pants of Fire!” false. Notably, Meta’s advertising policies state that the company does “not allow advertisers to run ads that contain content that has been debunked by third-party fact-checkers.”
- Liberty for the Kids has run at least 12 ads that claim that “Texas schools are pushing drag shows, Critical Race Theory (CRT) and sexual grooming.”
- Several ads reference or promote the anti-LGBTQ troll group Gays Against Groomers. One of these ads is from the pay-for-play publication The Southern California Record. The ad links to an article that describes Gays Against Groomers as an “LGBTQ organization that opposes child gender reassignment surgery and pedophilia.”
- A page called Macon Disciples ran a lengthy ad claiming that Christians should care about the sanctity of marriage and that “there is an alarming trend of sexualizing children and grooming them for all kinds of perversion. According to Scripture, marriage is between a man and a woman.” The ad also states that “homosexuality, according to Scripture is clearly a mortal sin that will lead to perdition (hell).”
- The page Resist 46 has run ads that state “yes we know the far left hates morals and christianity” and show a compilation of images that includes several drag performers with the words “this is what grooming looks like” over them. Another ad claims that Biden supporters “have no problem with drag queen grooming and grown LGBT throwing $ at children as they strip on stage.”
- OurFight.online has run at least 19 ads, including ones that state “DNA (not feelings) DETERMINES GENDER” or “STOP GROOMING OUR CHILDREN” next to an image of a rainbow. Most of these ads also link to a petition titled “Stop Grooming Our Children!” The petition goes on to say that “our children are being taught homosexuality and sexual perversion” and that “some teachers want to convince our boys they are girls, and our girls they are boys,” all of which it claims to be a “Satanic force of sexual perversion.”