A Russian group has managed to spread lies, misinformation, and pseudoscience about the LGBTQ+ community across the globe, becoming a “major vector” for anti-LGBTQ+ hate, according to a report from the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism (GPAHE).
According to GPAHE, a nonprofit dedicated to countering hate and promoting human rights, Science for Truth (Наука за правду in Russian) is dedicated to disseminating “dehumanizing pseudoscience apparently designed to undermine the movement for LGBTQ+ rights in Russia and abroad.”
Milana Petrova spoke about her transition on social media, which is illegal in Russia.
In Russia, the group has lobbied the government to call for increased restrictions on LGBTQ+ rights, censoring LGBTQ+ content online, and restrictions on gender-affirming healthcare. It has attacked pro-LGBTQ+ and pro-sex-education researchers, and it also supports the government classifying LGBTQ+ activists as “foreign agents.”
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Outside of Russia, GPAHE reports, the group’s influence is growing via its website, Telegram channel, and its account on the Russian social media platform VK. In a recent report on how search algorithms continue to allow users to find inaccurate information about and providers of so-called “conversion therapy,” particularly in non-English languages, GPAHE found that Science for Truth’s website consistently appears in top search results for the harmful and discredited practice.
The site also shows up as a top search result for information on LGBTQ+ issues in many countries, despite featuring what GAPHE describes as dehumanizing material about LGBTQ+ people.
Those materials include descriptions of LGBTQ+ people as “pedophiles,” “homofascists,” and potential terrorists. One post on the group’s site reportedly presents the bizarre claim that “anti-sperm bodies…formed in sodomites and homosexuals” can lead to “autoimmune infertility, miscarriages, cancer in children and DNA destruction.”
Science for Truth’s stated mission is to “disseminate facts that are deliberately kept silent by the leaders of the LGBT movement, which leads to the involvement of unsuspecting citizens in a destructive lifestyle, fraught with the most serious consequences for their health and well-being,” and the group claims that its materials are created “in collaboration with scientists, psychiatrists and sexologists.”
But according to GAPHE, many of Science for Truth’s members and contributors on its site are anonymous. Others have been associated with anti-LGBTQ+ and antisemitic propaganda and conspiracy theories, American anti-LGBTQ+ hate groups, clinics that provide “conversion therapy,” and dubious scientific publications. In 2018, moderators of the Russian Wikipedia page banned a user associated with the group from editing “biomedical information in LGBT articles” after the user edited an “enormous number of articles” with content from Science for Truth’s website.
Despite all of this, the group has managed to broaden its global reach by translating its anti-LGBTQ+ propaganda into more than 18 major languages as well as languages like Serbian, Georgian, and Hungarian, which according to GPAHE are less likely to be content moderated. Around 15 thousand unique visitors found their way to the group’s site in July 2023 alone.