Media Matters has identified over 150 ads that have run on Meta’s platforms baselessly accusing people of being a “groomer” or “grooming” children, including 94 ads that Meta has failed to remove since our initial reporting last month and 19 additional ads that have been created since, even though Meta has clearly stated that “groomer” rhetoric violates its policies. Ads with harmful “groomer” rhetoric reviewed by Media Matters have earned over 1 million impressions.
Right-wing media, political figures, and organizations have increasingly pushed the long-debunked myth that LGBTQ people pose a threat to minors and seek to “groom” them, using the baseless smear 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 trans people.
Even though Meta publicly confirmed that use of the word “groomer” to baselessly describe members of the LGBTQ community violates its hate speech policies, the company continues to profit from ads containing this messaging.
On September 6, Media Matters reported on 134 ads that ran on Meta’s platforms and used “groomer” rhetoric. Since our previous report, Meta has removed 40 of those ads for violating its policies, but 94 remained.
Now, Media Matters has identified 19 new ads that have run on Meta’s platforms since September 6, meaning the company has allowed a total of over 150 ads that baselessly accuse people of sexually grooming children to run on its platforms so far in 2022. According to data from the Dewey Square Adwatch tool set, these ads have cost a combined total of at least $13,600 and have garnered more than 1 million impressions (the number of times the ads appeared on users' screens).
From September 6 through October 12, Meta allowed at least 19 new ads to run using “groomer” rhetoric, which cost at least $900 and earned at least 154,000 impressions. These include:
- An ad from conservative student group Turning Point USA featured a tweet from the Daily Wire’s Candace Owens stating that she has “no patience for this child groomer movement” and that she “always has the time to protect children.” This ad ran on both Facebook and Instagram and earned at least 20,000 combined impressions.
- The Dallas Express — part of a network of right-wing propaganda sites disguised as local news and run by Metric Media — ran an ad on both Facebook and Instagram promoting its article discussing the group Gays Against Groomers being banned from Venmo and PayPal. The ad referred to the anti-trans group as an “an organization against the sexualization, indoctrination, and medicalization of children.”
- Far-right think tank the Claremont Institute ran an ad on both Facebook and Instagram promoting its article titled “Grooming Future Revolutionaries.” The ad claimed that children of military service members are being subjected to “anti-American and anti-family hatred in the name of perverse, dangerous, and false ideologies.” The article itself claims that the K-12 educational curricula on military bases are being “infused with cutting-edge left-wing pedagogical techniques in the service of radical gender ideology” as part of an attempt “to disrupt stable sexual identities.”
- New Jersey’s Holmdel Republican Party ran an ad on Facebook and Instagram that asked voters to support candidates who will oppose “the woke agenda of the Left” and “publicly state their opposition to the States new sex education curriculum which sexualizes our children to advance the agenda of groomers.”
- Philip Nagel, a Republican running for state Senate in Illinois, has run two ads using false “grooming” rhetoric. One of the ads featured a video in which Nagel claims that he is “fed up and pissed off with the sick perversion that is being pushed on our children” by “a political class full of pedophiles and groomers.”
- An ad from Idaho gubernatorial candidate Ammon Bundy features a video in which he claims that “our children are being groomed” and that if elected, he will protect children and use “all means necessary to keep them safe from this perverse sexualized ideology.” In 2016, Bundy led an armed occupation of the Malheur wildlife refuge in Oregon, which was aided by the anti-government militia group The Three Percenters.