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Social Media Hate Speech, Harassment 'Significant Problem' For LGBTQ Users: Report

A new report by GLAAD highlights the high rate of harassment and hate facing LGBTQ users on social media. In this photo, demonstrators rally in favor of LGBTQ rights outside the U.S. Supreme Court in 2019.
Saul Loeb
AFP via Getty Images
A new report by GLAAD highlights the high rate of harassment and hate facing LGBTQ users on social media. In this photo, demonstrators rally in favor of LGBTQ rights outside the U.S. Supreme Court in 2019.

The top social media sites — Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, TikTok and Twitter — are all "effectively unsafe for LGBTQ users," according to a new report by GLAAD.

"Of special concern, the prevalence and intensity of hate speech and harassment stands out as the most significant problem in urgent need of improvement," the organization focused on ending discrimination against LGBTQ people said in its inaugural social media index report.

Sixty-four percent of LGBTQ social media users reported experiencing harassment and hate speech, a much higher rate than all other identity groups. Users on Facebook experienced the highest percentage of online harassment. About 75% of those who experienced online harassment reported at least some of that harassment occurred on Facebook. Smaller shares experienced harassment or hate on Twitter (24%), YouTube (21%), Instagram (24%) and TikTok (9%).

In an interview with Axios on HBO that aired Sunday night, GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said the organization planned to give each of the social media sites a grade as part of its index, but abandoned that plan after determining all would receive a failing grade.

Ellis said online hate speech and harassment can be tied to real-world consequences, including the recent wave of legislation targeting the transgender community across the country.

"I think that there are direct lines to, unfortunately, suicides of our community," she said.

Physical violence against the transgender and gender-nonconforming community is also at its highest level since the Human Rights Campaign began tracking the phenomenon in 2013. The group reported that in 2020 at least 44 transgender or gender-nonconforming people were fatally shot or killed by other violent means. The majority of the victims were Black and Latinx transgender women.


GLAAD's report noted several bright spots in policy changes made by the social media giants as a way to improve conduct and cut down on misinformation.

So far this year, Twitter and Facebook announced new features with the aim of improving site conduct.

In March, Facebook said it would enable users to limit who can comment on their posts and make it easier for users to adjust the algorithm of their news feed.

Last week, Twitter announced it was rolling out an add-on that detects "mean" replies on its service before a user presses send. When such a tweet is composed, an automatic prompt reads, "Want to review this before Tweeting?"

During the 2020 election, Twitter also began flagging tweets that were suspected of containing misinformation.

But social media can, and should, go even further, GLAAD said.

The organization mapped out several recommendations and suggestions for Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and TikTok.

Among those, GLAAD calls for greater protection of LGBTQ users in community guidelines, improved content moderation, mitigating algorithmic bias, and an increase in LGBTQ hiring, inclusion and leadership at these companies.

The report said, "While Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, TikTok and others must balance concerns around free expression, it cannot be stated strongly enough that social media platforms must take substantive, meaningful, and far more aggressive action to prioritize the safety of their LGBTQ users and to staunch the epidemic of hate and extremism."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Jaclyn Diaz is a reporter on Newshub.
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