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Facebook ad attributed to TED Conferences is fake

May 3, 2022 GMT

CLAIM: Facebook allowed a TED-sponsored advertisement calling pedophilia “a natural sexual orientation” to run on the platform.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. The advertisement, which has been circulating online since at least 2020, is not real. It was never promoted on Facebook, nor did TED, the group that hosts the popular TED talk series, create or sponsor any such ad, according to the organization.

THE FACTS: The image, which was widely shared and debunked years ago, reemerged online in recent days, being circulated by social media users who say it shows an authentic advertisement on Facebook, and demonstrates a sympathetic stance to pedophiles by the company.

Social media users are sharing a screenshot of the purported advertisement, which shows a man holding the hand of a young girl. The text overlaid on the fake ad says, “pedophilia is a natural sexual orientation it is in our responsibility to reflect and to overcome our negative feelings about pedophiles.” The TED logo, among other icons, is displayed prominently on the bottom, making it appear the organization promoted the ad.

One Twitter user shared the image with the caption, “never forget that Facebook allowed this ad on its platform,” adding, “Facebook is run by sick bastards and pedophiles. #Groomers #pedophelia.” Another user said, “Facebook allowed this ad. Facebook is run by pedophiles.”

But the advertisement is not genuine, a spokesperson for TED confirmed.

“The ad is a misuse of the TED logo and tagline, and permission has not been granted by TED,” company spokesperson Karen Navarre wrote in an email to The Associated Press. “TED does not promote pedophilia.”

No such advertisement appears in Facebook’s ad library, either. A search of the archive for ads sponsored by TED showed no results for the image from 2018 to present. The library shows both active and inactive advertisements.

A spokesperson for Meta, Facebook’s parent company, also told the AP there was “nothing to indicate that TED ran this as an ad on our platform.”

The image was created using a stock photo, which is archived on popular sites, including Adobe and Shutterstock, under the title, “parent holds the hand of a small child.”

The TED logo was digitally inserted, in addition to several other icons made to look like co-sponsors, including an unidentified pink heart logo, a rainbow flag logo and the logo for a largely-defunct organization called NAMBLA.

NAMBLA, North American Man-Boy Love Association, was described in a journal article shared by the U.S. Department of Justice as “a pedophile organization that advocates adult sexual behavior with male children.” Leading LGBTQ advocacy groups have long condemned the fringe organization.

The fake advertisement has been appearing online since at least in 2020. Its slogan was based on comments made during a controversial TEDx talk delivered in 2018 by a German medical student.

The speaker argued that pedophiles can’t change their sexual desires, but emphasized that they must learn to control them to not act upon them. At one point during the talk, she said “pedophilia is an unchangeable sexual orientation,” but at another point she also stated, “let me very clear here. Abusing children is wrong without any doubt,” according to a recording of the speech.

On its website, TED clarifies that its TEDx events are organized independently under a free license granted by TED.

“TEDx is a grassroots initiative, created in the spirit of TED’s overall mission,” TED says on its site, adding, “these events are not controlled by TED, but event organizers agree to abide by our format, and are offered guidelines for curation, speaker coaching, event organizing and more.”

TED also addressed the independently-organized 2018 talk in a statement at the time.

The image is being resurfaced in recent days by social media users who say it is an example of “grooming” behavior promoted by elites, including those who run Facebook.

Grooming is a term commonly used to describe how sex offenders initiate contact with their victims. But such rhetoric has been used, often incorrectly, in recent months by people claiming children are being attacked by forces that want to indoctrinate them with ideas their parents do not support.

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This is part of AP’s effort to address widely shared misinformation, including work with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content that is circulating online. Learn more about fact-checking at AP.