Here’s how to push back on social media and in person.

In January 2019, Scott Weiner, a California State Senator, introduced what he thought was an L.G.B.T.Q. Civil Rights Bill. At the time, California law gave judges discretion on whether to put a 19-year-old man on a sex offender registry if he had vaginal sex with a 16-year-old girl, but if that 19-year-old man had anal or oral sex with a 16-year-old boy, he would automatically be registered as a sex offender. Weiner’s bill sought to fix that discrepancy by giving the same discretion to judges over oral or anal sex offenses. Sex with any minor would be a crime in the state of California if this bill passed.

According to Weiner’s communications director, Catie Stewart, the bill was moving through the legislature with little fanfare or opposition until this summer, when a mom with tens of thousands of followers on Instagram got wind of a politically motivated misrepresentation from earlier in the year — one with the headline “California lawmakers introduce bill to protect pedophiles who sexually abuse innocent kids.” She then posted about it, and encouraged her followers to contact Weiner’s office to complain.

They just saw that there was a bill appearing to protect pedophiles and were understandably horrified. Weiner’s official Instagram was bombarded with thousands of comments and D.M.s, ranging from upset to violent. “#SaveTheChildren seemed to be the way in for many people, Since the bill passed on Sept. 2, the torrent of comments and D.M.s have become “a monsoon.”

Since July, at least three reality-TV-star moms with over four million Instagram followers collectively have posted about #SaveTheChildren, including incorrect information like the statistic that “300,000 American children a year will be lured into the sex trade,” a figure that has been thoroughly debunked.

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