Mass shootings in the United States have spurred a flood of disinformation directed towards an unusual group: LGBTQ persons.
Users on the fringe internet forum 4chan suspected that the shooter was transgender. Before authorities recognized him as the gunman who killed five people Monday at a bank in Louisville, Kentucky.
Following the identification of Connor Sturgeon, right-wing bloggers such as former Donald Trump assistant Sebastian Gorka posted screenshots of the suspect’s LinkedIn page. Noting that it included his pronouns.
The story is the latest to drive anti-LGBTQ disinformation on platforms like Twitter. Which analysts believe has surged dramatically since Elon Musk bought the firm.
After a late-March shooting at a Nashville elementary school, Miss Peppermint, a former “RuPaul’s Drag Race” contestant and transgender activist residing in New York, said she was stunned to discover her name and photo above a tweet she never made.
Transgender people preparing to “commit a heinous crime” should “clear your social media,” according to the tweet. Several conservative influencers reposted it after Nashville shooter Audrey Hale was revealed as transgender by police.
According to Heron Greenesmith, a senior research analyst at Political Research Associates, the disinformation propagated following the Nashville massacre came from “very online, right-wing troll accounts. Who are always ready to capitalise on an emergency or a disaster.”
Activists are concerned about the continued consequences from such falsehoods. Which come as more US states enact legislation restricting gender-affirming health care and LGBTQ rights.
“It’s terrible that anti-trans extremists are seizing this opportunity to spread misinformation. Spread lies, and attack trans people, including Peppermint,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of GLAAD, an LGBTQ advocacy organization.
Greenesmith claims that anti-LGBTQ misinformation thrives on Twitter because “the platform prioritises conflict.”
According to a March analysis from the Center for Countering Digital Hate, anti-LGBTQ speech on Twitter has increased since Musk’s takeover. (CCDH).
The organization discovered that posts citing the idea that LGBTQ persons are “grooming” children increased by 119% between October 2022 and March 2023. According to CCDH’s calculations, five accounts pushing the allegations make up to $6.4 million in ad income every year.
These accounts are run by right-wing influencers, some of whom were previously suspended from Twitter for violating the platform’s hate speech regulations. They were rehired once Musk bought the company.
Twitter’s revised verification policy, which no longer distinguishes between public individuals and users who subscribe to Twitter Blue, is exacerbating the dissemination of misinformation.
“Content moderation included verification.” Greenesmith described it as “another piece that appears to be falling by the wayside.”