Since Joe Biden became the Democratic presidential front-runner last summer, false claims about the LGBTQ community have surged on social media.

Thousands of people shared posts that erroneously link LGBTQ people to pedophilia. Claims about legislation such as the Equality Act distorted the facts on gender identity and sexual orientation.

Experts and historians said those false claims – amplified across social media platforms in spite of the companies’ policies – tap into age-old myths to push back against gains for the LGBTQ rights movement.

“I think that we’ve definitely seen increased anti-LGBTQ, particularly anti-trans, disinformation as a political tactic,” said Brennan Suen, director of the LGBTQ program at Media Matters for America, a liberal nonprofit group that tracks misinformation from right-leaning sources.

“Disinformation” is any false information that’s deliberately created and shared to cause harm, the motivations ranging from financial to psychological, according to First Draft, a nonprofit group that monitors online content. “Misinformation,” on the other hand, is false information that is not intended to cause harm. Whatever the intent behind the barrage of claims about the LGBTQ community, many of them are outright false or misleading.

Some advocates said the influx of misinformation has moved offline.

More:How Joe Biden became the most LGBTQ-friendly president in US history

Since January, when President Biden signed executive orders allowing transgender Americans to serve in the military and preventing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, state lawmakers have introduced dozens of bills aimed at preventing transgender students from participating on sports teams. Governors in several states signed those bills into law, requiring transgender athletes to compete according to the sex they were assigned at birth instead of their gender identity.

The families of high school athletes Selina Soule, Alanna Smith, at lectern, and Chelsea Mitchell filed a federal lawsuit against the Connecticut Association of Schools and multiple school districts alleging discrimination. The athletes say they lost out on top finishes and possible scholarship opportunities because a statewide policy allows transgender athletes to compete against cisgender girls.

“The narratives that we’ve been seeing have actually turned into anti-trans legislation that attacks trans kids for wanting to play sports,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of GLAAD, an LGBTQ media monitoring organization. “It’s not just misinformation – it’s legislation.”

Idaho state Rep. Barbara Ehardt doesn’t see it that way.

“In the world of sport, biological sex matters,” said Ehardt, a former college basketball player and coach.

In February 2020, Ehardt, a Republican, introduced the first bill to restrict transgender athletes’ participation in school sports. After drafting the bill, she sought input from the Alliance for Defending Freedom (ADF), a conservative Christian advocacy organization that the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) deemed a hate group, in part because its leaders have falsely claimed LGBTQ people are more likely to engage in pedophilia. The ADF refuted that categorization, saying it has “biblically-based views on marriage, human sexuality, and sanctity of life” and denying that it believes same-sex attraction is linked to pedophilia.