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GLAAD’s 2024 Social Media Safety Index Report: A Grim Outlook for LGBTQ+ Users

GLAAD's 2024 Social Media Safety Index reveals that major platforms like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, X, and Threads continue to fail at protecting LGBTQ+ users from hate speech and harassment. TikTok improved slightly but still has significant shortcomings. GLAAD emphasizes the urgent need for social media companies to enforce their policies more rigorously to ensure the safety and well-being of LGBTQ+ individuals online.

According to GLAAD’s recently released 2024 Social Media Safety Index (SMSI) report, the digital environment remains dangerous for LGBTQ+ users. The comprehensive analysis of six leading social media platforms paints a troubling picture of systemic failures to protect LGBTQ+ individuals from hate speech and harassment. The platforms under scrutiny include Meta’s Facebook and Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, X (formerly Twitter), and Threads. With the exception of TikTok, which showed slight improvement, all platforms received failing grades for the third consecutive year, underscoring a persistent and urgent issue.

A Persistent Failure

For the third year running, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, X, and Threads received an F grade on GLAAD’s index. TikTok, while not stellar, managed a D+ rating, making it the highest-scoring platform with a score of 67%. This marks a ten-point increase from last year, thanks to several enhancements to its “Anti-Discrimination Ad Policy” which prevent advertisers from wrongfully targeting or excluding users. Despite these efforts, the platform still has a long way to go to ensure the safety and well-being of its LGBTQ+ user base.

Facebook and Instagram, both owned by Meta, saw their scores worsen, dropping 3 and 5 points respectively. Threads, evaluated for the first time since its launch in summer 2023, also received an F, scoring 51%. Meanwhile, YouTube saw a modest increase of 4 points, landing it at 58%. X’s score rose by 8 points to 41%, yet it remains the lowest-scoring platform overall.

Sarah Kate Ellis, GLAAD’s President and CEO, emphasized the gravity of the situation, urging social media companies to take immediate and decisive action. “Leaders of social media companies are failing at their responsibility to make safe products,” Ellis stated. “When it comes to anti-LGBTQ hate and disinformation, the industry is dangerously lacking in enforcement of current policies. There is a direct relationship between online harms and the hundreds of anti-LGBTQ legislative attacks, rising rates of real-world anti-LGBTQ violence, and threats of violence, that social media platforms are responsible for and should act with urgency to address.”

The report highlights over 700 documented incidents of anti-LGBTQ+ hate and extremism from November 2022 to November 2023. These incidents, ranging from homicides and assaults to bomb threats and acts of vandalism, are linked to the pervasive spread of harmful narratives and disinformation online.

GLAAD’s report delves into the mechanics behind these failures, pointing to algorithms that prioritize engaging content over accurate and safe information. This dynamic creates a fertile ground for hate speech and disinformation, which can escalate into real-world violence and discrimination against LGBTQ+ people. Financial incentives play a significant role in this, as platforms profit from increased engagement regardless of the content’s nature. This business model prioritizes sensational and divisive posts, undermining the safety of LGBTQ+ users and threatening the integrity of democratic processes.

The Impact of Stochastic Terrorism

The report brings attention to stochastic terrorism, where violent acts are performed in response to messages intended to inspire such actions. A December 2022 study by Media Matters and GLAAD found a significant surge in the use of the slur “groomer” on Twitter following Elon Musk’s acquisition of the platform. Prominent far-right influencers have used this term, which falsely links LGBTQ+ people to pedophilia, to incite hostility and encourage harassment of the LGBTQ community.

The study found that retweets of “groomer” slur tweets by nine prominent anti-LGBTQ+ accounts increased by 1,200% after Musk’s takeover. Mentions of this slur from right-wing media accounts rose by over 1,100%. Anti-LGBTQ+ extremist influencer Chaya Raichik’s Libs of TikTok account saw mentions grow from about 2,000 to almost 14,000. Additionally, tweets mentioning prominent LGBTQ+ accounts with the “groomer” slur increased by more than 225,000%.

Despite the grim findings, there have been some positive developments. Since the first SMSI report in 2021, GLAAD’s Social Media Safety Program has pushed platforms to update their policies to include additional protections for LGBTQ+ safety. In 2022, GLAAD and UltraViolet worked with TikTok to add protections against targeted misgendering and deadnaming, as well as banning the promotion of conversion therapy. GLAAD notes that its Social Media Safety Program staff have worked extensively with many platforms on these critical policy areas. Companies recently adopting one or both policies include Snapchat, Discord, Post, Spoutible, Grindr, IFTAS, and Mastodon.

The Need for Effective Moderation and Enforcement

The report underscores the lack of effective moderation and enforcement of community guidelines, allowing harmful content to proliferate. Despite policies against hate speech, platforms often fail to implement these policies adequately, leading to the spread of harmful content. GLAAD calls for social media companies to enforce their policies more rigorously and transparently.

GLAAD’s report offers specific recommendations for each platform, emphasizing the need for comprehensive data on policy enforcement, policies protecting transgender users without requiring them to self-report abuse, and universally adding the option to include pronouns in profiles. The report also stresses the importance of transparency, urging social media giants to publish comprehensive data on how policies protecting LGBTQ+ users are enforced.

The Bottom Line

As the 2024 election approaches, the report warns that weaponized anti-LGBTQ hate and disinformation, especially anti-trans hate, will continue to be an extraordinarily harmful and dangerous problem. GLAAD’s CEO Sarah Kate Ellis highlights the urgent need for action, stating, “An enormous amount of work lies ahead as we advocate for platforms to fulfill their commitments to LGBTQ safety, privacy, and expression.”

While the findings of the 2024 SMSI report are disheartening, they also provide a roadmap for improvement. The social media landscape remains challenging for LGBTQ+ users, but with sustained advocacy and commitment from both platforms and users, there is hope for a safer and more inclusive digital future. GLAAD’s ongoing efforts and the recommendations outlined in the report offer a glimmer of optimism, emphasizing the possibility of change and the importance of standing up for the rights and safety of LGBTQ+ individuals in the online world.

READ THE FULL REPORT: GLAAD 2024 Social Media Safety Index Report

Transvitae Staff
Transvitae Staffhttps://transvitae.com
Staff Members of Transvitae here to assist you on your journey, wherever it leads you.
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