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Social media platforms failing to stop hate and threats against LGBTQ users, report says

FILE IMAGE – TikTok and Facebook logos displayed on phone screens and a laptop keyboard are seen in this illustration photo taken February 6, 2022. (Photo Illustration by Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Social media platforms including Facebook and TikTok are failing to end hate and threats against LGBTQ users, according to a report released Wednesday by advocacy group GLAAD.

They are some of the internet’s most vulnerable users, with the majority of LGBTQ people saying they have encountered threatening messages or comments when browsing social media. But it is unclear how social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter and YouTube handle these threats.

Instead of protecting their users, GLAAD says in the report, tech companies shield information about how they respond to these attacks, revealing few details about how often they delete messages or accounts that push the rhetoric. hate or harass LGBTQ users.

“The reality is that there is very little transparency and very little accountability,” said Jenni Olson, GLAAD’s director for social media safety and author of the report. “And people feel helpless.”

Los Angeles resident Peter Sapinsky, a gay musician who has said he has been harassed in the online gaming community, shared screenshots of dozens of messages he sent to The Associated Press. YouTube about users and videos using racist and homophobic slurs. YouTube only responded to certain messages, he said.

Sapinsky, 29, said some use YouTube to livestream harassing people at Pride parades. They promptly delete such live videos once they are completed to avoid detection by YouTube for violating its policies against hate speech, he said. He listed a series of homophobic slurs he heard in videos posted by users who still operate on the site.

“YouTube doesn’t do anything about it,” Sapinsky said. “For someone who says they don’t allow hate on the website, that’s for sure.”

Hate or violent speech directed at members of the LGBTQ community is prohibited on the platform, YouTube spokesperson Jack Malon said.

“Over the past few years, we’ve made significant progress in our ability to quickly remove hateful and harassing content,” Malon said. “This work is ongoing and we appreciate GLAAD’s thoughtful feedback.”

A Twitter spokesperson said in a statement that the company is discussing the report’s findings with GLAAD. A statement from TikTok did not directly address the report, but said the company is working to create an “inclusive environment.”

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GLAAD recommended that platforms begin publishing training methods for content moderators as well as the number of accounts and posts companies remove for violating rules designed to protect LGBTQ users.

GLAAD’s report examines the policies and actions that Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, TikTok and Twitter have implemented around LGBTQ issues.

All social media platforms have policies designed to prevent LGBTQ users from being harassed, threatened or discriminated against by other users because of their identity.

Only Twitter, however, has specificity policy against intentional sexual abuse, using the wrong pronoun to describe someone, for example, or deadnaming, which involves reviving a transgender person’s name before the person transitions to a new identity. Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, said it removes similar posts upon request.

Some users bully LGBTQ people on social media by mistaking them for gender or giving them a dead name. One example came last month, when a conservative social media pundit sent out a swarm of Twitter users to harass transgender actor Elliot Page with the wrong pronoun and the wrong name. This Twitter user has been suspended under the company’s hateful conduct policy.

“The idea that these numbers with millions of followers bully and harass trans people, because they’re trans, is just plain wrong,” Olson said.

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