Anti-Hate Experts Concerned About Rising Online Threats Against LGBTQ2S+ Events in Canada

Anti-hate experts are raising concerns after homophobic and transphobic threats targeted organizers of LGBTQ2S+ events across Canada.

The Canadian Anti-Hate Network says stories of “grooming” — hate speech used to target queer and trans people — are being spread on social media platforms like Twitter and TikTok.

According to the network, researchers are seeing an importation of specific speech topics from the United States. This includes groomer narratives, misinformation about gender-affirming grooming, and transphobic comments about the events of family-friendly dragster storytime.

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“We are seeing an import of these ideas from the United States that are plugged into Canadian social media and the far-right organizing sphere,” said Hazel Woodrow, education facilitator for the Canadian Anti-Hate Network.

“It’s not a new narrative overall, but it’s kind of new to social media.”

Concerns arise after various LGBTQ2S+ organizations and event organizers across Canada received online threats. A popular tweet on Tuesday showed screenshots of people organizing a protest against the Calgary Public Library’s Reading with Royalty program, a drag queen family event.

In Victoria, the organizers of a family drag show decided to cancel the event after multiple threats and harassing calls.

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Woodrow said there is a relationship between major social media accounts and the rise of anti-LGBTQ2S+ hate and misinformation in Canada. Libs of TikTok, a Twitter account that regularly targets LGBTQ2S+ events and communities, has over a million followers and is often amplified by conspiracy theorists and right-wing media.

“We’ve seen Canadian events featured on Libs of TikTok, and that’s concerning to us because they have a huge base,” Woodrow said.

“We see far-right outlets promoting Libs of TikTok content, and then real people will harass LGBTQ2S+ communities, even if those outlets don’t directly tell them to do so.”

There’s also a relationship between hate movements and conspiracy theories and that’s a really big deal, says Woodrow.

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“QAnon is very concerned about children and child protection, which leads to rumors and panic (around queer and trans people),” she said.

“Not all people who believe in conspiracy theories do so from a place of hate, but all hateful ideologies come from conspiracy theories.”

Woodrow says community advocacy is important to combat misinformation against LGBTQ2S+ people, especially during Pride Month.

“The best-case scenario is when a group of defenders show up and the people you’re defending against don’t even show up. It’s always better to overprotect a vulnerable population than to protect them alone,” Woodrow said.

She also encouraged parents to have conversations with their children about the misinformation they see on social media. Conspiracy theorists often groom young people and children on TikTok and exploit their naivety and impulsiveness, Woodrow said.

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“Open up to having conversations…Really leaning into the fact that knowing social media can go a long way,” Woodrow said.

But she also said it was also important to have these conversations with older family members.

“Our elders are vulnerable to (misinformation) because they didn’t grow up learning to master social media… Don’t debate conspiracy theories, but talk about how a social media post makes them feel “Woodrow said.

“Believing in conspiracy theories is very emotional. It’s not a logical thing.

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The Calgary Public Library (CPL) told 770 CHQR that it was aware of a protest being staged online and that staff had taken the necessary precautions to ensure families felt safe during the event.

CPL Communications Director Mary Kapusta said the event went according to plan and everyone had a great time.

“We were prepared and spoke to our staff and our presenter about the possibility of this kind of activity,” Kapusta said.

“It’s difficult when you see this kind of activity and you don’t want to feed on it. We made sure that our staff felt empowered to answer all customer questions. »

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