A July 30 2023 pair of tweets about Moms For Liberty and LGBTQ+ books spread that day and the next, suggesting that the group’s efforts to eliminate books led to $30,000 in donations for “more LGBTQ themed books”:
In the first two tweets, @kdnerak33 wrote:
Two Moms for Liberty members in San Diego thought they could stop a library from displaying LGBTQ books during pride month [June], so they checked out EVERY book, and sent an email saying they would refuse to return them unless the library promised to permanently remove them.????
When the story ran in the local paper, not only did people replace the books, they donated $15,000 so more books could be purchased, and the city matched the amount.
Now, the library has $30,000 for more LGBTQ themed books.
Thanks, Moms for Liberty. ????️????
[An unrelated] story sums up the Streisand Effect, named after singer Barbra Streisand, which is an online phenomenon in which an attempt to hide or remove information – a photo, video, story etc – results in the greater spread of the information in question.
Google Trends data for the 24-hour period between July 30 and July 31 2023 indicated “Breakout” levels of search interest for terms related to “Moms For Liberty.” Those terms included “Moms For Liberty San Diego library,” “Moms For Liberty California,” and “Moms For Liberty hate group.”
According to the tweet, two individuals belonging to or associated with Moms For Liberty in San Diego “checked out EVERY” LGBTQ+ book displayed for Pride Month (June 2023) — later emailing the library and ransoming the books in an attempt to get them removed permanently.
On June 29 2023, LGBTQ+ newspaper the Los Angeles Blade published a story with the headline, “Protesters check-out all LGBTQ+ books in Pride library display.” Details of that article matched the initial tweet’s claim, that two women had checked out all of the LGBTQ+ books in a display and then failed to return them. The paper mentioned the emailed threat, and reported:
Two women have mounted a protest against the Pride Month display at the Rancho Peñasquitos Library in Inland San Diego County by checking out every book in the display, many only single copies held by the library.
The San Diego Union-Tribune reported that Rancho Peñasquitos residents Amy Vance and Martha Martin, told head librarian Misty Jones that libraries are open, public spaces for children that should be free of references to gender identity and how adults experience sexual attraction.
“Minor children have the right to belong to a community that respects their innocence and allows families to have conversations about sex and sexual attraction privately, and only when parents deem it appropriate,” Vance and Martin wrote in a June 15  email to Jones after checking out the books in the Pride display.
The article also reported that the “total replacement costs would be just over $235” for the books held hostage. In a third tweet, @kdnerak33 linked to an article about donations to the library:
The thread also contained a link to a July 24 2023 article on news site TheMessenger.com, “Residents Flood Library With New Copies of LGBTQ Books Stolen by Anti-Pride Protestors.” It recapped the initial story, adding:
After the San Diego Union-Tribune ran an article about the books being hijacked, [library manager Adrianne Peterson] — who oversees the Rancho Peñasquitos branch of the San Diego Public Library — was inundated with brand-new replacements.
Peterson said that she learned the books wouldn’t be returned when an email arrived in her inbox from two residents, demanding that the library permanently remove the books, which they’d deemed “inappropriate content.”
She feared she may have misread the community. But she was wrong.
Citing the New York Times, The Messenger reported that “Amazon boxes by the dozens started arriving at the library after the initial article, containing copies of the books that had been taken by the anti-LGBTQ protestors,” and continued:
In addition, roughly 180 people — mostly San Diegans — donated more than $15,000 to the library system. The city agreed to match that amount, meaning there’s more than $30,000 earmarked for more LGBTQ-themed materials and programming.
On July 22 2023, the New York Times published “They Checked Out Pride Books in Protest. It Backfired,” stating that Peterson initially believed the library’s Pride display that year had “fallen through the cracks and fell short of what she had hoped to offer”:
Ms. Peterson, who has run the library branch since 2012 and highlighted books for Pride Month for the better part of a decade, was taken aback when she read an email last month from two neighborhood residents. They informed her that they had gotten nearly all of the books in the Pride display checked out and would not return them unless the library permanently removed what they considered “inappropriate content.”
In that piece, the Times linked Peterson’s initial reaction with the outpouring of support that followed:
“It was just kind of like, ‘Whoa, curveball,’” Ms. Peterson said. “I began to wonder, ‘Oh, have I been misunderstanding our community?’”
Soon, she would get her answer: Stacks of Amazon boxes containing new copies of the books the protesters checked out started to arrive at the library after The San Diego Union-Tribune reported on the protest. Roughly 180 people, mostly San Diegans, gave more than $15,000 to the library system, which after a city match will provide over $30,000 toward more L.G.B.T.Q.-themed materials and programming, including an expansion of the system’s already popular drag queen story hours.
A short July 30 2023 Twitter thread claimed that two San Diego Moms For Liberty members checked out an entire Pride display in June 2023, issuing a bizarre ultimatum — demanding a promise that the hostage books be removed from the library entirely in exchange for their safe return. The incident made the news, and as the tweets indicated, a total of $30,000 was donated in response to the “protest.” Broadly, the outcome served as an example of “the Streisand Effect”; in an attempt to censor LGBTQ+ literature, the two San Diego parents inadvertently generated funding for more books (and drag queen story hour).
The community’s response is also an excellent example of building resilience — the only way to effectively fight weaponized disinformation campaigns.