On June 9 2023, a Twitter user shared a screenshot of a tweet featuring a purported photograph of a man wearing a “trans kids are sexy” shirt at an unspecified Pride event:
That screenshot was shared as a response to a user objecting to characterizations of LGBTQ+ people as “groomers.” It also showed a partially redacted retweet saying, “They aren’t grooming your kids that’s just a conspiracy theory.”
Under that, a June 7 2023 @WokeArchive tweet appeared. Its text read “We’re not after children, we just want to live our lives,” and it appeared to depict a white-haired man wearing a shirt featuring a stylized face and reading, “trans kids are sexy.”
A June 12 2023 Google search for “We’re not after children, we just want to live our lives” returned only four results, the oldest of which was crawled seven days earlier. Similarly, a search for the text of the retweet (“they aren’t grooming your kids that’s just a conspiracy theory”) returned just one matching result which linked back to the now-deleted @WokeArchive tweet.
Using the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine, we were able to retrieve the deleted tweet, initially shared by @WokeArchive on June 7 2023. At the time the tweet was archived, it had been viewed nearly half a million times:
@WokeArchive’s deletion of the tweet scattered its reply tweets by “orphaning” them. However, one of the four results in the first search returned a tweet demonstrating that the photograph was deliberately altered — in the original photograph, the man was wearing a plain white shirt:
We were easily able to confirm this with a reverse image search that turned up the original image to a November 2021 DesertSun.com article, “Palm Springs Pride Parade 2021 draws crowds, brings joy after missed year.” A gallery of photographs was embedded in the article, and the image of the man was number 17 of 42 images.
An aggregated AFP.com fact check of the image indicated that the hoax originated on 4chan prior to being seeded (and then quietly deleted) on Twitter:
“I can confirm that the person in the photo is a Southern California flagger and that they were wearing a white t-shirt in the parade as that was our suggested dress for the event. It appears an image was later added to the photo that was taken by the Desert Sun and published in the newspaper,” the Desert Flaggers’ website manager told AFP.
The hoax picture appears to have originated on 4chan, a haven for misinformation and hate speech known for having little moderation. Users of the site shared an image of the “trans kids are sexy” graphic on June 1, 2023 followed by the doctored image purporting to show the parade participant wearing it, according to AFP’s review of their activity.
On June 7 2023, @WokeArchive shared a stolen, doctored Pride photograph on Twitter, subsequently deleting the tweet. After it was deleted, the hoax screengrab predictably circulated in screenshots and appeared in reply tweets. The image first appeared on 4chan on June 1 2023, and was deliberately fabricated to paint Pride events in a false light. A version of the unedited original image is embedded above.