LGBTQ+ people are unlikely to be surprised to hear that major social media networks are unsafe for them. Because regardless of whether it’s Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok or YouTube, they've witnessed the never-ending cascade of hate speech, harassment and misinformation that runs rampant on these platforms.
The latest confirmation of this depressing truth comes from GLAAD’s inaugural Social Media Safety Index, which evaluated the LGBTQ user safety experience of the five leading social networks. GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis told NBC News that “initially the organization intended to issue grades for each platform, but changed course when it realized it would be giving all five failing grades.”
In addition to finding the entire sector unsafe, the report labeled anti-LGBTQ hate speech and misinformation on these platforms as a ‘public health and safety issue.’ Social media has been weaponized against the LGBTQ+ community.
We are reminded of this during Pride week, a cause of celebration for how far we’ve come, but also recognition there is still much more work to do. As a company that helps brands effectively use social media, we would like to see the major platforms address the functionality and features that fuel anti-LGBTQ+ behavior and speech.
How? Simple yet highly effective measures would certainly help. For example, improving reporting and moderation by using humans instead of AI; stopping algorithms that incite hate speech; respecting data privacy; and having LGBTQ+ policy leads.
Brands could also show support and solidarity with the community by exploring alternative apps and platforms, such as BePerk, Vero and Howbout, which allow users to control their experiences to only see what they want to see, making them more hospitable. A couple of recognizable brands experimenting with these platforms would give Mark Zuckerberg, Jack Dorsey, etc. pause.
It would be a giant leap forward if the social media platforms made systemic changes to reduce online harassment and misinformation. Imagine they took that even further by playing an active role in making their platforms better for the LGBQT+ community.
We are, after all, in the midst of a major crisis. LGBTQ+ youth contemplate suicide at three times the rate of their heterosexual peers; Pew Research found that 1 in 6 LGBTQ+ people are harassed online daily. The American Pediatrics Foundation found alarming data on the percentage of transgender teens who have attempted suicide — 51% of transgender male teens and 30% female transgender teens.
Social platforms are uniquely positioned to help play a role in solving this crisis. They need to step up, quash online harassment and solve the problems they have often made worse.
By Ashley Cooksley is managing director of North America at The Social Element