Top social media platforms continue to fail LGBTQ users, report finds

As the incidence of anti-LGBTQ legislation continues to climb in states across the U.S., a new report found that five of the most popular social media platforms are not prioritizing the safety of queer, transgender, non-binary and gender nonconforming users. The study, conducted by the LGBTQ advocacy organization GLAAD, suggests that major social networks are not just passive bystanders to hate spread online, but have in effect helped fuel the rise of anti-LGBTQ sentiment nationwide. 

GLAAD’s report, called the Social Media Safety Index, is the second of its kind. It evaluated Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter and YouTube’s policies to facilitate expression, ensure privacy, and shield LGBTQ people from hate, harassment and prejudice while using their platforms. 

Each company received a failing grade, scoring between 43 and 48% out of 100. Grading was based on a set of metrics that aimed to measure both the policies those companies technically have in place to protect the LGBTQ community, and whether or not they work.

Although the report showed platforms failing in slightly different areas, all five came up short when their policies to protect transgender, non-binary and gender nonconforming users were evaluated. GLAAD recommends that Facebook, Instagram and YouTube adopt more comprehensive policies to ensure those users are protected from “targeted deadnaming and misgendering” as well as other hateful or discriminatory behaviors. Twitter and TikTok previously updated their community guidelines to include bans on deadnaming and misgendering. 

The organization called on major social media platforms to make changes in a number of key areas. It urged them to improve algorithms that amplify harmful content, strengthen company resources and trainings so that moderators “understand the needs of LGBTQ users,” increase transparency about data collection, and fix AI biases that disproportionately impact marginalized groups including people within the LGBTQ community. 

“At GLAAD, we know that media — including social media — is an empathy machine that has the power to change hearts and minds,” said GLAAD president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis in a statement released alongside the social media scorecard. “From an LGBTQ perspective, it is not enough for companies to post a rainbow during a Pride month marketing campaign or use LGBTQ creators to make their brands seem diverse and inclusive, while failing to stand up for us and protect us in real-world ways.” 

“LGBTQ people are under attack right now, all across the globe,” Ellis continued. “At this point, after their years of empty apologies and hollow promises, we must also confront the knowledge that social media platforms and companies are prioritizing profit over LGBTQ safety and lives. This is unacceptable.”

Cyberbullying and harassment often targets people who are LGBTQ. Results of recent survey from the Anti-Defamation League showed LGBTQ respondents were more likely than any other group of participants to face online hate, with 66% saying they had experienced it before compared with 38% of other respondents saying the same. More than half of LGBTQ people surveyed said they were harassed because of their identities.

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