August 2, 2022

Why is anti-LGBTQ+ disinformation being funded by advertising?

GDI has studied examples of brands inadvertently funding anti-LGBTQ+ disinformation during Pride month. While Pride is celebrated at different times of the year around the world, this report focused on June 2022 when the majority of companies also participate or show support for Pride and LGBTQ+ communities.

GDI views disinformation through the lens of adversarial narrative conflict. This means that anywhere someone intentionally peddles a misleading narrative, often implicit and constructed using a mix of cherry picked elements of fact combined with fabrications, that is adversarial in nature against an at-risk group or institution, and most importantly, creates a risk of harm, they are engaging in disinformation.

Adversarial narratives:

— Can be implicit or explicit;

— Are intentionally misleading;

— Are adversarial against:

  • at-risk individuals or groups
  • current scientific consensus
  • democracy and key institutions

— Most importantly, these adversarial narratives create a risk of harm.

This special report includes examples of ad-funded stories promoting a range of harmful adversarial narratives. Please note these are summaries and examples are taken directly from the anti-LGBTQ+ content observed in this study. These stories, and the dehumanising language used within them, fall under GDI's criteria for adversarial narrative conflict. Some of the themes found in this study included:

  • Educating children about gender identity is child abuse and/or sexual grooming.
  • Books in schools that depict sexual content, pornography or pedophilia are somehow representative of LGBTQ+ persons.
  • Gender nonconformity is against nature and similar to “satanic ritual abuse.”
  • "Transgenderism" is a "concept" invented and imposed on children by the "Radical Left” intended to destroy the social fabric of society.
  • Increasing numbers of young people who identify as transgender is proof that identifying as such is a social choice rather than a naturally occurring state.

Ad tech companies servicing these ads & funding these stories include Amazon, Google, The Trade Desk, and AdRoll.

An example of Amazon both as the brand advertising and the platform serving the ad to anti-LGBTQ+ content.

Most of the supply quality policies of the ad tech companies observed do not adequately address the breadth of anti-LGBTQ+ disinformation narratives and/or are not enforced.

Additionally, most brands in this study appear to celebrate Pride month and have a public position on LGBTQ+ that is pro diversity, equity and inclusion.