Jul 13, 2022 - Technology

GLAAD: Social media networks fail to protect LGBTQ users

Glaad CEO Sarah Kate Ellis, speaking to Axios on HBO's Ina Fried in 2021
Glaad CEO Sarah Kate Ellis, speaking to Axios' Ina Fried in 2021. Image: Axios on HBO

Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and TikTok all get failing marks when it comes to protecting LGBTQ users on their social networks, according to a new report from GLAAD.

Why it matters: Civil rights groups say there is a direct connection between the online harassment and discrimination faced by members of underrepresented groups and real-world violence and erosion of civil rights.

"The social media platforms — these five in particular — play an outsize role in this ecosystem of hate and misinformation," GLAAD CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said in an interview. "They literally control the on and off buttons of live hatred against marginalized communities."

By the numbers: In its report, GLAAD gave scores below 50 (out of 100) to all of the companies, with Instagram at 48.38, Facebook at 46.3, Twitter at 44.7, YouTube at 45.11 and TikTok at 42.51.

  • All the groups got points for having at least some policies protecting LGBTQ users from harassment and attack, but lost points for both the limitations of their policies as well as actions taken in upholding their policies.
  • Twitter and TikTok got credit for prohibiting users from misgendering or dead- naming transgender people, while GLAAD found the training given to content moderators lacking at all of the social networks.

Between the lines: It's the second year for the report. Last year, GLAAD opted not to give individual ratings to each social media company but described the entire space as "categorically unsafe."

  • GLAAD opted not to give companies individual grades last year, saying it wanted each to have a baseline from which to improve. Nonetheless, none received a passing grade.
  • "Unfortunately, this was no surprise where they all rank," Ellis said, adding, "I know there are good people at these companies that are trying."

The big picture: The latest report comes amid increased real-world targeting of LGBTQ people and events as well as hundreds of proposed state laws aimed at limiting the civil rights of LGBTQ people.

  • "It’s as if lawmakers and lobbyists are lifting the language from these platforms and are looking to them for guidance on how to further marginalize the LGBTQ community," Ellis said.

The other side: Several of the social media companies defended their policies.

  • Meta: "We prohibit violent or dehumanizing content directed against people who identify as LGBTQ+ and remove claims about someone’s gender identity upon their request," Meta said in a statement to Axios. "We also work closely with our partners in the civil rights community to identify additional measures we can implement through our products and policies."
  • Twitter: "At Twitter, we know the public conversation only reaches its full potential when every community feels safe and comfortable participating," a spokesperson said in a statement to Axios. "We’ve engaged with GLAAD to better understand their recommendations and are committed to an open dialogue to better inform our work to support LGBTQ safety."
  • TikTok: "TikTok is committed to supporting and uplifting LGBTQ+ voices, and we work hard to create an inclusive environment for LGBTQ+ people to thrive," a spokesperson said in a statement to Axios.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to show that the 42.51 score in GLAAD's report was for TikTok, not Twitter. It has also been corrected to note that GLAAD's score for Instagram was 48.38, not 43.38 as the group originally reported.

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