In a first-of-its-kind report on “user experience” for the country’s leading social media platforms, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) has declared Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter and YouTube “effectively unsafe for LGBTQ users.”
Cynthia Silva from NBC News reported that GLAAD’s inaugural “Social Media Safety Index” report originally set out to study the “LGBTQ user safety experience” of Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter and YouTube. While the group initially planned to grade each platform, GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said it soon became obvious that all five platforms would receive failing grades. So, the group issued a warning on their usage instead.
“What we realized was it wasn’t the right starting point. The right starting point was to give them the information to act and give them a roadmap to be successful,” Ellis said in an interview with Axios. “This is about less watchdogging, more partnering with these platforms to get it right.”
According to Silva, “the 50-page report’s key conclusions — in addition to finding the ‘entire sector’ unsafe — were identifying the ‘prevalence and intensity of hate speech and harassment’ as the ‘most significant problem in urgent need of improvement’ across social media platforms and labeling the ‘problem of anti-LGBTQ hate speech and misinformation’ on the platforms as a ‘public health and safety issue.’”
One shocking stat from the report found that while 46% of Muslims, 36% of Jews and about a third of Black, Latino and Asian American respondents reported experiencing “online hate and harassment” on these platforms, 64% of LGBTQ respondents reported repeated hate-filled attacks.
Among the report’s most glaring criticisms of the social platforms: the inability to detect and bar “harmful” anti-LGBTQ advertisements on Facebook; a dearth of human moderators on Twitter capable of interpreting the legitimate use of LGBTQ terminology on the site, but incapable to differentiate between legitimate accounts and those of trolls and bad actors; and the overwhelming prevalence of content labeled as “anti-LGBTQ hate speech” on YouTube.
Silva added that GLAAD’s final report includes a “nine-point ‘responsibility checklist’ for social media platforms. The recommendations, intended to help them become safer for LGBTQ users, include ‘greater protection of LGBTQ users in community guidelines’; ‘improved content moderation’; ‘LGBTQ hiring, inclusion and leadership’; and ‘promotion of civil discourse.’”
Ellis summarized the GLAAD report by writing, “The safety of LGBTQ people on social media platforms is an urgent public safety issue. If we approach this issue using a lens of public health and public safety, it is clear that companies have an inherent responsibility to make their products not merely safer but actually truly safe — for LGBTQ users, and for everyone.”
While the majority of the social media platforms defended the work they had done to make their networks more LGBTQ-friendly, many also acknowledged that they all had more work to do and thanked GLAAD for their efforts to lead to a better overall user experience for LGBTQ individuals on social media.