Social media platforms ‘successfully unsafe’ for LGBTQ: GLAAD report

Noah Wagoner remembers the “disgusting” online conversation all too vividly.

In July 2020, the Seattle-based LGBTQ + educator and activist had an intense discussion on Facebook about Black Lives Matter and police reform with someone he knew. Then the conversation turned toxic and Wagoner was harassed for being transgender.

The exchange assumed a “fairly harmless development into an obvious transphobia,” recalled Waggoner, since the graphic contributions were “very egregious” and unsuitable for printing. Wagoner blocked the user and reported the incident to Facebook before the posts were removed. He said the social network informed him that the posts did not violate its guidelines.

“It wasn’t surprising that (Facebook) didn’t do anything, but it was annoying,” said Wagoner, who is encouraged that GLAAD, the LGBTQ advocacy group, is now making social media platforms a thing of the past and calling for major reforms in Es treats its LGBTQ users.

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According to GLAAD’s first Social Media Index report released on Monday, the platforms have a “breaker” to slow down harassment, bullying, misinformation and discrimination, but they don’t want to because they make money from it “Entire sector effectively unsafe” for LGBTQ users and other marginalized communities.

“The great creator of culture today”

The 50-page report lists numerous problems and offers dozens of recommendations for major platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter and TikTok.

GLAAD’s report comes a few months after respondents found in a January study by the Pew Research Center that nearly 80% of social media companies do fair or poor job addressing online harassment or bullying on their platforms Afford. The Pew Center study also said that about 50% of lesbian, gay, or bisexual adults who report being harassed online believe it was because of their sexual orientation.

GLAAD cites a recent report by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) that LGBTQ + respondents reported a disproportionately higher harassment rate of 64% versus 41% in the general population for the third year in a row.

“These platforms have all the tools to stop the abuse and they choose not to do anything. Every time they choose not to, it harms our community,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, President and CEO of GLAAD USA TODAY. “Social media has become one of the greatest creators of culture today. If you have a community that has been the primary target for harassment, it’s time to hold them accountable.”

The main recommendations for the four main platforms include:

  • Better protection of LGBTQ + users in community guidelines
  • Reduce the distortion of algorithms and artificial intelligence
  • Use more human moderators to reduce the posting and spread of hate speech, extremist rhetoric, and misinformation
  • Addressing privacy and excursions (including privacy and micro-targeting)
  • More transparency and even more LGBTQ attitudes in various key roles, including leadership and inclusion

Facebook, YouTube and Twitter said in separate statements to the US TODAY that they want to make their platforms safer for everyone, including the LGBTQ + community.

Facebook firmly believes in the representation and visibility of the LGBTQ + community, for which GLAAD is committed.

The big four react

“At Facebook, we want to make both our platform and our workplace safe and inclusive places for the LGBTQ + community,” said Alex Schultz, chief marketing officer and vice president of analytics at Facebook. “We are investing in AI to remove hate speech, create online safety guides, develop tools to block message requests on Instagram, and show our support for the Equal Opportunities Act to protect vulnerable people like trans teenagers and skin-colored trans women.”

A YouTube spokesperson said the platform has made “significant strides in our ability to quickly remove hateful and harassing content directed against the LGBTQ + community,” while “prominently showing content in search results and referrals from authoritative sources and distributing extreme content through ours.” Limit recommendations. “”

And on Twitter, a spokesperson said the company knows that public conversation will only reach its full potential if every community is safe and comfortable participating in it. “We welcome GLAAD’s initiative and the opportunity to better understand the experiences and needs of LGBTQ + communities in our ministry,” said the spokesman. We partnered with GLAAD to better understand their requests and are committed to an open dialogue to better inform our work in support of LGBTQ safety. “

TikTok said in a statement to Axios Sunday that the company “is committed to supporting and raising LGBTQ + voices on and off the platform, and we are committed to promoting a welcoming and supportive experience for all . We share GLAAD’s commitment to the safety of the LGBTQ + community and will continue to work with GLAAD and other LGBTQ + organizations to inform and empower our work. “

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Logan Lynn, an LGBTQ singer and musician who has been harassed and bullied online, particularly because of his provocative short film that accompanied his 2019 double-album, believes GLAAD’s report is like an all-hands-on-deck appeal to the Arms is the platforms on termination.

“It’s long overdue for us all to bandage arms and say ‘enough’,” said Lynn, who is also the PR director of .gay, a website that celebrates and supports the LGBTQ community. “I am very moved that it will happen.”

Rethink digital advocacy

The US is behind the 8-ball on how to display social media platforms versus European countries that regulate them, said Lucy Bernholz, director of the Digital Civil Society laboratory at Stanford University and a member of the report’s advisory board .

“Our mental model has not caught up with the role these social media companies play in our lives. They started out as places where we could share what we were eating, where we were going, and who we were going to meet, but now are they all-embracing, “said Bernholz. “Now kids can’t take part in group activities without scheduling on Facebook. Twitter has changed the way we get our messages and do our business, and Google is a must-have for almost anything we want to know. “

Bernholz said social media platforms have “basically made themselves the equivalent of our streets, sewers and utilities” to get where we want to go, and the report is an opportunity to “rethink” our digital advocacy .

“Together we have to recognize and set limits as to how these companies should work for us,” said Bernholz. “These companies want to make it feel like it’s just me. However, if we see the harassment and abuse on these platforms as a common social problem, we get common solutions and regulations. And that’s exactly what these companies don’t want to see.” “”

The trans community bears the brunt of it

Ellis and Bernholz said one of the most harassed LGBTQ + groups was the trans community.

Wagoner, who is trans, said he wasn’t surprised as his community is being heavily targeted despite their very visible participation in the platforms.

“The users are the goods. We are the service, so to speak, the product. If there is something that customers can potentially turn away, there is no incentive to change your behavior if the incentive is money,” said Wagoner. “Since users don’t pay any money to use the platforms, it’s not a problem for them.”

Originally, GLAAD wanted to rate the social media platforms with their first comprehensive assessment, but “none of them would pass,” said Ellis. Instead, Ellis added, the report serves as a basis, as GLAAD seeks to give companies, like many GLAAD members served on their trust and security councils, “the benefit of the doubt out of the gate.” The report should be viewed as a “blueprint” for improving social media platforms, Ellis said, as GLAAD intends to give grades in next year’s report.

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“You can’t move what you don’t measure, and until we have a measurement metric in place we can hold it accountable,” said Ellis. “Let’s create a roadmap for success, not just for the LGBTQ community, but for all marginalized communities.”

To that end, Jennifer Grygiel, a professor of social media at Syracuse University, said that while advocacy organizations like GLAAD need to hold institutions accountable, they also need to be willing to be a harsh critic.

“The bar is low on social media, and that’s a problem. Sometimes platforms get credit for doing something at all, but that doesn’t mean it’s enough,” Grygiel said. “But it would look pretty bad for GLAAD to have red thumbs down for every indicator for all platforms, but that’s exactly where things are.”

According to Ellis, GLAAD’s social media index is a model similar to what the organization has done to hold Hollywood and the media more accountable for LGBTQ inclusiveness and representation.

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