Pride Under Attack” is a series of research investigations carried out by Univision’s elDetector, Lupa, Data Crítica, and DDIA, with support from the Consortium to Support Regional Journalism in Latin America (CAPIR) led by the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR). This article was also published in Spanish and in Portuguese.

Article 2 of 4 - May 15, 2024

A false dichotomy, a “logical fallacy in which a limited number of choices or sides are presented as mutually exclusive,”  is an increasingly common technique in online manipulation, and is often used in the spread of false and misleading narratives about the LGBTQ+ community.

In this second article, a part of the "Pride Under Attack" series that dives into the disinformation, misinformation and hateful narratives circulating on social media against the LGBTQ+ community, Univision’s elDetector, Lupa, Data Crítica and the Digital Democracy Institute of the Americas (DDIA) reveal how the idea of offering sex education as part of official academic curricula for children and adolescents has been framed by some actors as a supposed attempt by the LGTBQ+ community to indoctrinate young people into identifying themselves as queer, gay or transgender. 

With the help of CrowdTangle, a Meta tool that allows for tracking of data on the platform, researchers managed to gather and analyze a total of 1,334 posts made from January 1 to March 31, 2024, on Facebook mentioning in Spanish, Portuguese, and English the terms "indoctrinate," "indoctrination," or "indoctrinating" along with the word "children."

Over the course of 91 days of observation, content that mixed misinformation and hate speech against LGBTQ+ individuals was published on Facebook, on average, once every two hours. In the sample of 1,334 posts analyzed, which totaled more than 41,000 interactions (an average of 31 per post), there are attacks on educators and books addressing gender issues, as well as against political entities presenting proposals on sex education, in addition to widespread support for those who want to ban conversations about the so-called gender ideology near children. 

The profiles and pages that publish false dichotomies juxtaposing the safety of children to the teaching of sex education, as if both options were mutually exclusive, seem to believe that there is a global (or at least continental) conspiracy to actively harm young people. For this group, this alleged movement that they false claim could give rise to a generation of LGBTQ+ adults must be denounced (through instruments such as petitions) and stopped. Facebook posts seem to be one of the weapons in this battle.

In the analyzed period, 1,131 unique Facebook pages published, in at least one of the three languages, content suggesting that there is indoctrination of young people happening across the Americas. Given the number of followers of these pages, this material could have reached 133 million people, an audience that roughly equates to the population of Mexico or three times that of Argentina

Whether in English, Spanish, or Portuguese, the posts collected in the first quarter of 2024 show that, regardless of the country or language, hundreds of entities and thousands of individuals use Facebook to denounce that the proximity, even if only cultural or academic, of children with the LGBTQ+ community endangers the so-called "traditional family" or the "original family design."

Some posts contain serious and unproven associations between the provision of comprehensive sex education and alleged cases of pedophilia. In Chile, groups of parents attempted to strike and stop taking their children to school. The false dichotomy here, which pits academic instruction  about gender issues against the physical safety of young people, lacks factual basis.

Attacks Against Sex Education

Of the analyzed sample, the most widely shared post on Facebook is in English and claims: "It's time for America to face the ugly truth. Child predators are licking their lips, with the sexual perversion of young children in elementary schools. Manipulative sexual indoctrination of children is forbidden, unless it comes from a man with deceptive makeup and a dress, pretending to be a woman."

The post, which also falsely claims that "recent statistics indicate that children may be at greater risk than previously thought" and emphasizes in uppercase letters that "children in the United States should not be sacrificed for any idiotic ideology," was spread on Facebook on February 19 and was shared by at least 23 pages in a period of five days.

The National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS) collects data on child abuse and neglect across the United States. Despite claims suggesting otherwise, NCANDS data shows a consistent decrease in child abuse cases since 2018. Additionally, 76% of perpetrators are relatives of the victims. Notably, the database does not cite educators as a significant group among child abusers. One in every four and one in every 20 boys in the United States experience sexual abuse.

Concrete data show that the provision of sex education actually results in more understanding of the topic of sexual abuse and harrassment, in more knowledge about how to proceed if a person is a victim of such abuse, and consequently, in more reporting. According to an article published by the American Psychological Association (APA), sex education "helps prevent dating and partner violence, promotes the formation of healthy intimate relationships, helps prevent child sexual abuse, improves social and emotional learning, and improves media literacy."

The Public Defender's Office of the city of Buenos Aires, Argentina, for example, reports that 80% of children and adolescents who reported abuse did so after attending comprehensive sex education classes at school, which allowed them to recognize that they had been victims of abuse.

But anti-LGBTQ+ movements prefer not to take these data into account. In Florida, for example, a law was passed that prevents schools from offering education (of any kind) that touches on sexual orientation or gender identity until the third grade of primary school as part of the curriculum taught in the classroom. Subsequently, the state's Board of Education decided to extend its application to all grades (up to 12). The Parental Rights in Education Law, informally known as "Don't Say Gay," has also served as a reference for other states in the United States to impose similar bans.

The most widespread post in Portuguese (in Facebook groups like this one with almost 70,000 members) goes one step further than the English post. It consists of a video posted by Brazilian federal deputy Amália Barros—and shared in the analyzed period by 12 Facebook profiles—showing a transgender educator giving a brief talk to a group of children about being born male and now wearing a dress.

"It doesn't matter if you accept or don't accept [trans or LGBTQ+ people], you must respect them," she says to the students at the end of the recording. But the posts made on Facebook about the deputy's video were contrary to what the educator communicated.

"Absurd! They want to indoctrinate our children in schools in any way [...]. I, as a federal deputy for Mato Grosso, will not allow it," said a text attributed to Barros.

Conservative blogs joined the story, discovered the name of the school and the educator, and pressured the municipal secretary of education to take action. Meanwhile, this transgender person was exposed, with her face and name, and cast into the eye of the digital storm.

Attacks on the WHO and a Movement Born in Peru

In Spanish, the most widely spread post about the alleged indoctrination of children consists of a video in which a doctor appears reading and criticizing (in English) the World Health Organization's (WHO) recommendations on child sexuality education.

Shared 13 times in just six minutes on a single day, the post features a health professional who describes the WHO guidelines as "terrifying," without making any mention of the fact that his comments take several phrases from the international organization's document out of their appropriate context.

The doctor says, for example, that the WHO states that children between 0 and 4 years old should "learn about masturbation." A careful reading of the original text shows that the entity simply makes an observation that it is at an early age when humans begin to explore their bodies through sight and touch. As highlighted by the WHO, this is "an observation, not a recommendation."

Added to this is the story of the doctor himself. The one appearing in the video is Canadian Mark Trozzi, whose license was revoked by the Ontario College of Health Professionals for unethical and unscientific positions during the COVID-19 pandemic. For the tribunal that reviewed the suspension of his license, Trozzi exhibited "shameful, dishonorable, or unprofessional conduct and did not comply with the standards of professional practice in relation to his statements about vaccination, treatments, and public health measures for covid-19 in social media posts, on his website, and in interviews."

Trozzi became an anti-vaccine advocate and criticized the use of masks in public places. He became popular on social media and messaging apps for promoting health misinformation. 

Finally, it is important to note the movement "Con Mis Hijos No Te Metas" (Don't Mess With My Kids), opposed to comprehensive sex education and present in several countries. In Peru, this movement was created in 2016, and there are similar campaigns in English (Don't Mess With Our Kids) and Portuguese (Não se meta com meus filhos). The movement's publications, like those promoting the false dichotomy of sex education and child safety, often use simple images, with texts in pink and blue colors. In August 2023, the movement ran a series of ads on Meta platforms promoting the idea that "schools should teach biological truths, not ideological ones." In Meta’s digital ad library, there were at least 120 ads with the phrase "conmishijosnotemetas" from April 1, 2023 to March 31, 2024.

In the past, members of the "Con Mis Hijos No Te Metas" movement have been caught falsifying various pieces of information to generate commotion on Peruvian social networks and have organized marches against comprehensive sex education. Spokespeople for the group have been accused of spreading various pieces of disinformation, such as claiming that the books used in sixth-grade classes in Peru were giving a male character the protagonist role in the children's story Little Red Riding Hood when it only became available in a teacher's guide from 2014 that was withdrawn in November 2015.

In June 2023, José Luis Linares Cerón, who identifies himself as the founder of the movement, was formally accused by his own daughter of sexual abuse. She allegedly became pregnant by him at the ages of 12 and 16.

The consortium of investigators who conducted this research contacted both Meta and Cristiano Conservador to comment on the issue.

Via email, a Meta spokesperson said the following:

"Meta does not allow hate speech on its platforms, and Community Standards prohibit any content that attacks people based on their characteristics. This includes ethnicity, nationality, religion or sexual orientation, social class, gender, gender identity, illness, or disability. We review content through a combination of Artificial Intelligence technology and human teams. We also encourage people to report content and accounts they believe violate our policies through the tools available within the apps themselves."

This is an investigation conducted by DDIA, elDetector, Lupa, and Data Crítica, thanks to the support of the Consortium to Support Regional Journalism in Latin America (CAPIR) led by the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR).

Cristina Tardáguila is the founder of Lupa, a columnist for elDetector, and a research consultant for