Social media has become a prevalent part of everyone’s life; whether it’s connecting with family over Facebook, watching our favorite YouTube content creator, or posting a random photo on Instagram. Yet as has been discovered, social media can also have a negative impact on society. From QAnon to the January 6thattack on the United States Capitol, social media has been used to spread disinformation and lies.
Then there is the presence of hate speech and harassment against various groups including the LGBTQ community across social media platforms. In recognition of the need to push social media platforms to bring changes for safe experiences on their respective medium, GLAAD created the GLAAD Social Media Safety Index (GLAAD SMSI)
In the executive summary of its inaugural report, GLAAD concluded:
Our over-arching recommendation is that decision makers, product teams and policy leaders at social media platforms must urgently make their products safe — for LGBTQ people, and for other historically marginalized groups.
This report draws on extensive input from leaders at the intersection of tech and LGBTQ advocacy, as well as a broad literature review distilling other reports, articles, research and journalism; and a review of platform policies and analysis of how they match up (or don’t match up) with actual LGBTQ user-experience.
Surveying the current landscape of leading social media platforms, the entire sector is effectively unsafe for LGBTQ users.
The report also explains that “LGBTQ hate speech and misinformation is a public health and safety issue” and give recommendations for all platforms:
- Stop allowing algorithms to fuel extremism and hate. Similarly, confront the problem of bias in AI which disproportionately impacts LGBTQ people and other marginalized communities.
- Make it easier for users to report problematic content, be transparent in content moderation, and use more human moderators.
- Employ a dedicated LGBTQ policy lead.
- Respect data privacy, especially where LGBTQ people are vulnerable to serious harms and violence.
- Only select platforms currently take any kind of action on violent speech and misinformation, with tactics including monitoring trending topics for misinformation, restricting hashtags or shares, or having labels on misinformation, but when it comes to anti-LGBTQ misinformation, enforcement is arbitrary at best.
The report goes on to address individual issues concerning Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok. For each platform, the report gives personalized recommendations and details what the targeted medium is doing right and where they are failing the LGBTQ community.
For YouTube, GLAAD SMSI presents an example of this with senior project consultant Jenni Olson attempting to report a transphobic video:
With 1,462,333 views as of December 22, 2020 when we first reported it, the YouTube video: “Trans gender ma’am goes off on a GameStop” (posted by Jegan Gaming on Dec 28, 2018) features the dehumanizing and malicious description, “Tranny doesn’t like being called sir…lol.” The overall YouTube community response to the video echoes the transphobia of the description — with more than 18,000 “thumbs up” reactions (and, thankfully, 676 thumbs downs). A skim of the 6,202 comments reveals that the most popular reply echoes the LOL of the description, “LMFAO.” This response clearly underscores the intent of the video — to mock and maliciously insult and dehumanize trans women.
The report goes on to explain that Olson filed four reports over two months (December 2020- January 2021) and the only reply she received was an automatically generated reply containing the usual canned response. Four months later, the video is still on YouTube with views inching closer to 1.7 million.
The report closed by presenting what needs to happen to ensure the safety of the LGBTQ on social media:
We call upon the leadership of these companies to take immediate action, to implement these urgently needed changes in their products and policies and to prioritize researching new and different ideas and solutions.
We appeal to their sense of responsibility both to their customers and to our society as a whole.
Even more emphatically, we urge our policy makers in Washington to prioritize the admittedly long and complex process of finding new approaches — including creating regulatory oversight that will require these companies to be accountable.
Whether or not the respective parties will heed the recommendations remains to be seen but GLAAD has taken the first steps to hold them accountable. The entire report is available on GLAAD’s website.
Have there ever been times that you experienced hate speech or harassment on a social media platform? Let us know in the comments or on our social media accounts.