Meta is profiting off of ads that accuse LGBTQ people of sexually “grooming children,” even though the company has confirmed that using the slur against LGBTQ people violates its hate speech policy. Media Matters has identified at least 134 ads that have run on Meta's platforms in 2022 and use “groomer” rhetoric. These ads, most of which are from right-wing organizations and politicians, have at least 913,000 impressions and have earned Meta at least $12,700 in revenue.
Right-wing media, political figures, and organizations have pushed the long-debunked myth that LGBTQ people pose a threat to minors and seek to “groom” them to attack teachers and progressive figures more broadly. This rhetoric has coincided with a conservative push to create legislation that strips away the rights of LGBTQ people, especially transgender people.
Media Matters has previously reported on how Facebook and Instagram -- both platforms that are owned by Meta -- have facilitated the spread of anti-LGBTQ and “groomer” rhetoric online. Now, we have found that the company is directly profiting from the rhetoric, as there are over 100 ads that earned Meta at least $12,700.
Right-wing organizations have run ads on Meta accusing LGBTQ people of “grooming children”
Right-wing organizations have run ads on Meta’s platforms to push an anti-LGBTQ and anti-teacher agenda. Some of these include:
- The conservative youth organization Turning Point USA earned at least 45,000 impressions (the number of times the ad appeared on users' screens) on 1 ad claiming that “Big Tech has decided to take their stand against the ones pushing back on those that are grooming children.”
- The conservative Christian groups Truth & Liberty Coalition and Illinois Family Institute ran ads either accusing LGBTQ people of “grooming” kids or linking to articles that made such accusations. The linked articles attacked queer and trans teachers who had been targeted by the influential anti-LGBTQ propaganda account Libs of TikTok.
Right-wing politicians have also run ads to stoke fear that “sexual groomers are coming for our children”
Several right-wing politicians have suggested that any mention of sexual orientation or gender identity around a child equates to an attempt at perverse grooming. Some of these figures include:
- Sandy Smith, a Republican candidate running in North Carolina’s 1st Congressional District, has spent at least $4,900 on 8 ads that have earned at least 213,000 impressions total, the most out of all of the advertisers identified by Media Matters. These ads features videos in which Smith falsely claims that “sexual groomers … are coming for our children” and that the 2020 election was stolen.
- Jake Hoffman is a Republican candidate for state house in Florida whose 1 ad includes a video featuring David Leatherwood, who has promoted the Gays Against Groomers coalition and is an employee of conservative media group Arsenal Media. In the ad, Leatherwood portrays a kindergarten teacher dressed in a Pride-themed Mickey Mouse shirt -- a nod to the right-wing attacks on Disney -- as he approaches a mother and her 5-year-old daughter, asking, “Have you begun educating your daughter in the joys of the rainbow?”
- Joe Kent, Republican congressional candidate in Washington’s 3rd Congressional District, has 6 ads featuring the same video in which he claims that Planned Parenthood is “driving the comprehensive sex ed, which is basically the groomer transgender agenda.”
Other ads from candidates that promote the “groomer” slur include 5 from Shiry Sapir, who is running for superintendent of public instruction in Arizona; 1 from Paola Tulliani Zen, a candidate for governor in Arizona; 8 from Carolina Amesty, a candidate for state representative in Florida; 1 from Dean Clouse, a Republican running for Congress in Tennessee; and 1 from Eric Bleicken and Vickie Shane, two candidates running for school board positions in Maine.