The Instagram logo next to the Gays Against Groomers logo

Molly Butler / Media Matters

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Instagram reinstated Gays Against Groomers’ account, even though the group and its network have seemingly violated the platform’s hate speech policies

The group and its associated accounts have repeatedly claimed that LGBTQ people are “grooming” children — which is rhetoric that Meta has said “violates our hate speech policies”

On October 25, Instagram suspended and then quickly reinstated the account of the anti-LGBTQ group Gays Against Groomers, allegedly apologizing for getting it “wrong.” The group, its state chapters, and its affiliates have repeatedly and falsely claimed that LGBTQ people are “grooming” children and “normalizing pedophilia,” seemingly violating Instagram and parent company Meta’s terms of service. 

Media Matters has already reported on the group’s Instagram account pushing anti-LGBTQ hate and seemingly violating Meta’s policies. But Meta has generally offered minimal response, which suggests that its hate speech policies are narrowly interpreted and applied. And while the company specifically reiterated that calling LGBTQ people “groomers” violates its policies, it seems to have ignored content targeting teachers, medical providers, and parents that support LGBTQ youth with the “groomer” slur. 

Meta’s inadequate policy enforcement regarding Gays Against Groomers is consistent with its history of failing to moderate hate speech and its pattern of allowing anti-LGBTQ rhetoric to proliferate on its platforms, including from large accounts.

  • Instagram has a history of failing to adequately moderate hate speech, including from the main account of extreme anti-LGBTQ group Gays Against Groomers

    • Instagram’s community guidelines state that the platform wants “to foster a positive, diverse community” and that it will “remove content that contains credible threats or hate speech.” The policy further specifies that “it's never OK to encourage violence or attack anyone based on their … sex, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation” and that “overstepping these boundaries may result in deleted content, disabled accounts, or other restrictions.” [Instagram, accessed 10/26/23]
    • Instagram, in particular, has a history of failing to moderate harmful accounts despite Meta's anti-hate speech and harassment policies. [Media Matters, 5/18/22, 2/18/22, 7/6/22, 2/21/23]
    • Gays Against Groomers is composed of experienced right-wing grifters, despite claiming to be a “grassroots” organization. The group’s founder Jaimee Michell and former chair and co-founder David Leatherwood both have employment histories with right-wing firms and connections to right-wing figures, as do several of GAG’s staff and members. [Instagram, 6/6/23; Media Matters, 7/6/23, 2/7/23]
    • In September, Media Matters reported on a plethora of posts from Gays Against Groomers’ main account that seemingly violate Instagram’s policies — including by referring to LGBTQ people as “groomers” and targeting trans people with claims of mental and moral deficiencies. In one post, the organization claimed, “Gender ideology is a trojan horse for pedophilia.” In another post, Gays Against Groomers described a clip from Sesame Street discussing pride as “grooming, point blank.” As of the time of publication, the account has over 360,000 followers. [Media Matters, 9/26/23; Instagram, 3/23/23, 6/5/23, accessed 10/18/23
    • A Meta spokesperson told The Advocate that examples from Media Matters’ September report, which were cited by The Advocate, were “non-violating,” but that “if someone were to use the term ‘groomer’ as an attack against someone based on being part of the LGBTQ+ community, it violates our hate speech policies.” Posts cited by The Advocate included a shared video of children dancing and waving Pride flags, which the poster called an “indoctrination ceremony” with the caption “Indoctrinated kids are groomed kids,” a video of Megyn Kelly attacking Target’s pride collection and saying if “you’re marketing this stuff to little kids, you are a groomer,” and a post with a caption claiming, “There’s no such thing as ‘trans kids.’ There are only groomed kids.” [The Advocate, 9/26/23; Instagram, 6/6/23, 5/18/23, 4/6/23
    • In September, Gays Against Groomers’ Facebook account was reportedly suspended as a “result of a platform error.” According to the Daily Dot, the Facebook account was suspended around September 19, but was reinstated by September 22 despite the account’s anti-LGBTQ rhetoric. Meta even claimed “the suspension was the result of a platform error.” [Daily Dot, 9/25/23
    • On October 25, the Gays Against Groomers Instagram account was briefly suspended by the platform. According to reporting from The Advocate, a person close to the conversations around the group’s suspension “speculated that while Meta’s trust and safety team likely found the group to violate the platform’s guidelines, an intervention might have come from the company’s political team to avert the scrutiny of Republicans in Congress, who have been critical of social media companies for purportedly suppressing conservative voices.” After the account was reinstated, Gays Against Groomers posted on X (formerly Twitter) a message it allegedly received from Instagram that said the platform was “sorry we got this wrong and that you weren’t able to use Instagram for a while.” [The Advocate, 10/25/23
    • Since the Gays Against Groomers Instagram account was reinstated, the group has used the platform to promote its two backup accounts, link to merch, and attack Instagram for “[siding] with predators.” [Instagram, accessed 10/26/23, accessed 10/26/23, accessed 10/26/23]
  • On Instagram, prominent figures associated with Gays Against Groomers have called multiple LGBTQ figures “groomer” and claimed that “there is a lot of pedophilia in the gay community”

    • Jaimee Michell, the founder and president of Gays Against Groomers, posted a clip from the show Generation Drag with a caption asking, “Is this just entertainment for groomers by groomers??” The post, which seemingly calls the show’s LGBTQ cast “groomers,” appeared on Michell’s personal Instagram account, where she has over 229,000 followers. [Instagram, 5/2/22, accessed 10/16/23; Deadline, 4/26/22
    • In the caption of another post, Michell claims, “The history and origins of ‘queer theory’ are deeply nefarious and its goal has always been to normalize pedophilia.” The post includes a video that claims to tell “the truth about ‘Queer Theory’ and how schools support pedophilia” with the hashtag #ExposeGroomers.” [Instagram, 12/11/22
    • The New York chapter leader of Gays Against Groomers, whose handle is Magay_45 and who is listed only as “Rachel” on Gays Against Groomers’ own site, posted a video about schools supporting children who are questioning their gender, claiming that it is because “they want to normalize pedophilia” and that “there is a lot of pedophilia in this gay community.” In the caption, Rachel claimed, “The gay community indeed have many perverts in it.” [Instagram, 9/21/23]
    • Rachel also attacked a trans author in a video post, saying, “I should call you a groomer.” In the caption she refers to them as having a “me^tal d!sorder.” [Instagram, 7/18/23
    • Gays Against Groomers co-founder and former board member David Leatherwood shared a video on Instagram featuring an LGBTQ influencer discussing gender and biological sex with a caption that began, “Ok groomer.” Leatherwood has since left the organization, but continues to post anti-LGBTQ content on his account, which currently has more than 34,000 followers. [Instagram, 11/30/22; Media Matters, 7/6/23; Instagram accessed 10/23/23]
    • Florida chapter leader Jana Warnecke shared and responded to a video of someone suggesting ways for parents to support their children’s exploration of gender identity, accusing them of “grooming children to believing that [they] aren’t born in the right body.” In her video, she also claimed that “this is, like, very grooming” and “they can push this as far as they like.” Warnecke has over 41,000 followers on Instagram. [Instagram, 8/10/23, accessed 10/26/23]
  • Instagram accounts for Gays Against Groomers’ state chapters baselessly refer to LGBTQ people as “groomers” and claim that “molestation” is “slipping thru the cracks now during our gender revolution”

    • Gays Against Groomers Georgia accused a drag queen of “grooming” for reading to children. The video post called for the cancellation of a drag story hour happening in the state. [Instagram, 10/4/23
    • Gays Against Groomers Colorado shared a photo of a transgender state representative over which the words “Now thats what I call a groomer” were superimposed. The caption claimed that she is “pushing for sterilizing medications & butchering of children.” [Instagram, 8/6/23
    • Gays Against Groomers Tennessee posted a video of nonbinary singer Sam Smith dancing to the Teletubbies theme song with a caption claiming, “It's GROOMING.” [Instagram, 9/11/23
    • Gays Against Groomers Washington posted a cartoon originally captioned “You call that being molested?” with a post caption reading “This is the same kind of thing that is slipping thru the cracks now during our gender revolution.” [Instagram, 8/7/23]
  • Accounts affiliated with Gays Against Groomers have repeatedly attacked teachers, doctors, and parents who support LGBTQ youth as “groomers”

    • Gays Against Groomers D.C. claimed in a post that teachers who teach children about gender identity are “groomers.” [Instagram, 9/29/23
    • Gays Against Groomers Illinois declared on Instagram that “Minnesota is continuously lowering the age to start medical intervention for CHILDREN who have been groomed to think they are trans is disgusting and it must be banned before any more children lay victim to this wretched ideology.” The image in the post showed a screenshot of a headline about a hospital in Michigan discussing “gender identity” with young patients. [Instagram, 8/15/23
    • Gays Against Groomers Illinois posted a video in collaboration with the group’s main account in which the speaker said every institution that supports age-appropriate gender-affirming care has been “captured by groomers” and that the people involved in them should “never see sunlight again.” [Instagram, 4/4/23
    • Gays Against Groomers Wisconsin shared a TikTok featuring a child with parents who are supportive of them being trans, with the caption, “This is child abuse. Grooming a child to believe they are the opposite sex is bad parenting.” The second half of the video features a man asking, “Who is to say that you — what’s not gonna happen is — you’re pushing this on him?” At one point, text reading, “This is a mass contagion” appears at the top of the video. [Instagram, 8/14/23
    • Becky Weiss, who is an “ambassador” for Gays Against Groomers, claimed in a video post that children “cannot be LGBTQ unless they are being groomed to be so.” In the caption of the post she encourages her audience to “give Boston Children's a call to let them know how you feel about the mutilation of healthy children” and provides a phone number. [Twitter/X, 9/22/23; Instagram, 9/1/23
    • Michell shared a post featuring a quote from TheBlaze’s Allie Beth Stuckey in which she claimed that only “perverts and predators'' would talk to children about being trans. Michell’s caption exclaims, “Say it louder for the groomers in the back‼️” [Instagram, 4/20/22
    • In the caption of a post, Weiss claimed, “A child is not capable of having a sexual orientation unless they have been groomed into having one.” She also wrote, “To teach a child that they can be gay, lesbian, pan, bi, yada yada yada… is to imply that children are sexual beings.” [Instagram, 10/5/23]