LGBTQ Harassment, Slurs Abound on Social Media, Report Says

WASHINGTON — Social media platforms including Facebook and TikTok are failing to stop hate and threats against LGBTQ users, a report issued Wednesday from advocacy group GLAAD found.

Those are some of the internet’s most vulnerable users, with a majority of LGBTQ people saying they’ve faced menacing posts or comments when they’re scrolling through social media. But it’s unclear how social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter and YouTube are handling those threats.

GLAAD reports that tech companies instead of safeguarding their users are protecting information about how they react to such attacks. They also reveal little detail about how frequently they take down accounts and posts which push hate speech against LGBTQ users.

“The reality is, there’s 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.”

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Los Angeles resident Peter Sapinsky, a gay musician who said he has faced harassment in the online gaming community, shared screenshots with The Associated Press of dozens of messages he’s sent to YouTube about users and videos that use racist and homophobic slurs. YouTube only responded to some messages, he stated.

Sapinsky, 29 years old, said some livestream to harass people attending Pride parades. They quickly delete those live videos once they’ve wrapped to evade being detected by YouTube for violating its policies against hate speech, he said. He listed a series of homophobic slurs he’s heard in videos posted by users who are still operating on the site.

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

Jack Malon, YouTube spokesperson said hateful or violent speech against members of LGBTQ communities is not allowed on YouTube.

“Over the last 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 the thoughtful feedback from GLAAD.”

A Twitter spokesperson said in a statement that the company was 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.”

GLAAD advised that these platforms begin to release training methods for content moderators, as well as information about the number accounts and posts they remove in violation of rules protecting LGBTQ users.

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

Every social media platform includes policies to ensure that LGBTQ users are not harassed, threatened, or discriminated against because of who they identify.

Twitter and TikTok also have specific policies against intentionally misgendering, using the wrong pronoun to describe someone, for example, or deadnaming, which involves reviving a transgender person’s name from before the person transitioned to a new identity. Meta, who owns Instagram (and Facebook), said that it can remove similar posts upon request.

Users misgender or name LGBTQ users on social media. A conservative social media pundit used Twitter to harass Elliot Page (transgender actor) with the wrong pronouns and names. That Twitter user was suspended under the company’s hateful conduct policy.

“The idea that these figures with millions of followers are bullying and harassing trans people, for being trans, is just wrong,” Olson said.

This correction has been made to clarify that TikTok does not restrict the use of Twitter for intentionally misgendering.

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