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GLAAD CEO Sarah Kate Ellis. Photo: GLAAD

GLAAD, a leading LGBTQ rights organization, plans to start rating social media companies based on how well they protect people from abuse, officials tell Axios.

Why it matters: Studies show that LGBTQ youth are three times as likely as their non-LGBTQ peers to be bullied on social media.

Driving the news: While GLAAD's first Social Media Safety Index won't come out until the spring, Ellis doesn't expect it to paint a flattering picture of Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other social media platforms.

  • "We would not be doing this if they were protecting our community," Ellis said. While acknowledging that social media has been a lifeline for LGBTQ people, Ellis said, "It has also been weaponized against our community."

Between the lines: One tricky part of the effort will be figuring out just how to measure the types of abuse inflicted on LGBTQ people on various social media sites. But Ellis notes there are clear policy differences.

  • For example, Twitter has added a policy against intentionally misgendering someone, while such behavior isn't clearly against the rules at Facebook and YouTube.
  • To help craft the criteria, GLAAD has pulled together a team of advisors, including journalists Maria Ressa and Kara Swisher, PlanetOut co-founder and filmmaker Jenni Olsen and academics such as Stanford's Lucy Bernholz and UCLA's Sarah Roberts.
  • Funding for the project comes from Craig Newmark Philanthropies and the Gill Foundation.

What's next: Ellis said she hopes the approach can be adopted by other groups that also face harassment on social media, including women and people of color.

Go deeper

Ina Fried, author of Login
Feb 25, 2021 - Technology

Apple, Qualtrics founder provide funding for LGBTQ youth effort

Youth in front fo the Encircle LGBTQ youth center in Provo, Utah. Photo: Encircle

Encircle, a Provo, Utah nonprofit that offers services to LGBTQ youth in the state, will expand to three more Western states thanks to an influx of funding from Apple and Ryan Smith, executive chairman of Qualtrics and owner of the Utah Jazz.

Why it matters: LGBTQ youth remain at high risk for homelessness and suicide, despite broad shifts in societal attitudes.

House passes Equality Act to boost LGBTQ protections

A protester holds a rainbow flag in Times Square in Oct. 2020. Photo: John Lamparski/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The House voted 224-206 on Thursday to pass the Equality Act, which would expand federal protections for LGBTQ people by prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.

Why it matters: The legislation passed in the House in May 2019, but never reached the Republican-controlled Senate under former President Trump. Democratic leaders believe there is a chance to pass the act into law this year with a 50-50 split in the Senate, but it is uncertain whether enough Republicans will support the bill for it to move forward.

Huge wildfire reaches edge of Sequoia National Park

A plume of smoke and flames rise into the air as the fire burns towards Moro Rock during the KNP Complex fire in the Sequoia National Park near Three Rivers, California, on Saturday. Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

Firefighters in Sequoia National Park were working into the night after two wildfires merged to reach the Giant Forest Saturday.

Why it matters: This forest contains over 2,000 giant sequoias, including the General Sherman Tree — considered the world's largest by volume. Park officials wrapped the trees in foil last week as the Paradise and Colony Fires, now known as the KNP Complex Fire, neared. And officials said early Sunday protection efforts appeared to be working.