Twitter worst at protecting LGBTQ+ users from hate speech among other social media: GLAAD report

Twitter worst at protecting LGBTQ+ users from hate speech among other social media: GLAAD report

Twitter is regarded as the most deficient among all major social media platforms when it comes to safeguarding LGBTQ users, particularly those who identify as transgender, non-binary, or gender non-conforming, according to GLAAD, an advocacy organization. The group stated that all of these platforms struggle to effectively counter hate speech and harassment, but Twitter fares the worst.

GLAAD’s annual Social Media Safety Index assessed major platforms including Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, and Twitter and found that these platforms are not adequately ensuring user safety. While most of the platforms showed improvement compared to the previous year, there was one notable exception—Twitter. 

The advocacy group’s evaluation labeled Twitter as “the most hazardous platform for LGBTQ individuals,” and it was the only platform that experienced a decline in its scores compared to the previous year. It is worth mentioning that Twitter was acquired by Tesla CEO Elon Musk in October last year.

Following Elon Musk’s acquisition of Twitter, the company’s communications staff was completely eliminated. Consequently, for several months, attempts to contact the press office have received only automated responses consisting of a poop emoji. This was the case when The Associated Press sought comment from the company.

Advocates for LGBTQ rights have consistently cautioned about the potential for online hate and harassment to escalate into real-life violence. However, even in cases where physical violence does not occur, the effects of online abuse on an individual’s mental well-being should not be underestimated.

GLAAD CEO and President Sarah Kate Ellis highlighted the distressing frequency of doxxing incidents within the LGBTQ community, necessitating their intervention to mitigate the hate, vitriol, and attacks. Doxxing is an malicious act involving the unauthorized disclosure of private or identifying information online, often with the intention to harass, threaten, shame, or seek retribution. Ellis expressed concern over the unprecedented escalation of such incidents, reaching levels previously unseen.

Advocacy groups report a significant surge in attacks targeting LGBTQ users on Twitter following Elon Musk‘s assumption of control over the company in the previous autumn. This increase can be attributed, in large part, to the extensive reduction in staff that Musk implemented after taking over. The diminished number of content moderators has resulted in an overwhelmed system unable to effectively address the abundance of problematic tweets, encompassing hate speech, explicit content, and harassment. Musk’s self-proclaimed stance as a “free-speech absolutist” has further contributed to this situation, as he deemed Twitter’s prior policies excessively limiting.

In April, Twitter discreetly eliminated a policy that prohibited the “targeted misgendering or deadnaming of transgender individuals,” causing apprehension regarding the diminishing safety of marginalized communities on the platform.

Furthermore, Elon Musk has repeatedly interacted with far-right personalities and disseminated misinformation to his extensive following of 143 million users.

As part of its policy revisions, Twitter also altered its approach to handling tweets that violate its rules. Previously, offending tweets were removed, but now the company indicates that it may occasionally restrict a tweet instead of completely removing it from the platform.

“Twitter is is largely a cesspool now. You can’t post without getting attacked. There’s no room for conversation. It is just about hand-to-hand combat,” Ellis said. “And that’s what it is. It’s like backyard dogfights.”

GLAAD CEO Sarah Kate Ellis expressed her regret that Twitter, which was previously regarded as a frontrunner among major social media platforms in terms of safeguarding LGBTQ users, has experienced a decline in its commitment to protection following the takeover.

Meanwhile, Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, witnessed a notable 15 percentage point increase in scores for both platforms, reaching 61 percent and 63 percent, respectively. GLAAD’s index assesses 12 LGBTQ-specific criteria, including explicit safeguards against hate and harassment, provision of gender pronoun options on profiles, and prohibition of discriminatory or harmful LGBTQ-targeted advertisements.

However, GLAAD noted that although Meta has shown improvement and possesses robust policies, consistent enforcement remains an issue. The group cited instances where abusive posts reported to Meta received automated responses stating that the high volume of reports prevented them from reviewing the content.

(With inputs from PTI)

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Updated: 16 Jun 2023, 12:53 PM IST

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Author: Shirley