Major social media platforms fail to protect LGBTQ+ users
Jun 27, 2023

Major social media platforms fail to protect LGBTQ+ users

A recent report from GLAAD found that though Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and TikTok have policies against hate speech, many don't enforce them.

The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) recently released its annual social media safety index. It scores the five biggest platforms — Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube and Twitter — on how well they’re doing protecting LGBTQ+ users from harassment and abuse.

All five platforms received failing grades. Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and YouTube did improve their scores slightly over last year but Twitter’s score sank, hitting a new low of 33%, according to Jenni Olson, GLAAD’s Program Director for Social Media Safety. The following is a conversation between her and Marketplace’s Meghan McCarty Carino.

Olson: All the platforms actually do have policies around anti-LGBTQ hate speech. You can’t target people on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. And so they all get a perfect score on that, but are still inadequate in terms of their policies and enforcement and overall safety with regard to LGBTQ folks.

Meghan McCarty Carino: What kinds of specific policies were you looking at when it comes to LGBTQ safety?

Olson: So the things that we rated range from: do the companies have an express policy commitment to protect trans, non-binary and gender nonconforming users from targeted misgendering and deadnaming? This is repeatedly referring to someone as the wrong gender as a form of expressing contempt and bullying and harassing people. That is such a prominent form of anti-trans hate online that we see. And one of the reasons that Twitter’s rating was so low is that they actually retracted the policy that they had protecting against targeted misgendering and deadnaming. While TikTok actually added that policy. And in fact, Meta also added a policy against targeted misgendering.

McCarty Carino: But, as you said, a policy is one thing, enforcement is another, right?

Olson: Right. So the recommendations, I mean, [are] fairly simple. In a certain way, just that the platforms have to do better and follow through on their commitments. It just shouldn’t be controversial that everyone should be safe from being bullied and harassed online. There’s this concept of enragement equals engagement, and how the hate accounts and figures are also generating ad revenue in different ways and using LGBT people as this culture war wedge issue. We shouldn’t be subjected to bullying and harassment on the basis of who we are. And that’s not suppression of free speech, that’s just common decency.

More on this

GLAAD collaborated on another report with the Anti-Defamation League, which just came out last week tracking the number of anti-LGBTQ hate incidents in the offline world between 2022 and 2023.

The report cites more than 350 such incidents from bomb threats against health care facilities that provide gender affirming care, to violent extremist groups demonstrating at drag performances and a mass shooting at a Colorado nightclub that killed five people.

In our conversation, Jenni Olson pointed out that there is often a direct connection between what happens online and offline: conspiracy theories and misinformation circulated in online spaces often feeds into real world violence.

The report points out the baseless “groomer” conspiracy that promotes LGBTQ people as a threat to children, and which was cited in almost 200 acts of vandalism, harassment and assault.

Olson also pointed out how online misinformation has played a role in the wave of state and local laws targeting LGBTQ rights. Again, as Olson noted: most of the platforms do have policies to prevent this type of misinformation from spreading, but especially at Twitter many staff members doing content moderation have been cut or left the company, as the head of trust and safety did earlier this month. That’s the second executive in that position to resign since Elon Musk took over Twitter last November.

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Daisy Palacios Senior Producer
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