New York, NY - May 10, 2021 - GLAAD, the world's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) media advocacy organization, today announced the findings of its inaugural Social Media Safety Index (SMSI), a 50-page report on LGBTQ user safety across five major social media platforms: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and TikTok. The Index represents the first-ever tech-industry baseline of LGBTQ user safety. The Social Media Safety Index was based on an in-depth review of industry research, and publicly available content and ad policies; interviews with advisory committee members; and reporting and testing of LGBTQ policies across each of the platforms. The report ends with extensive, actionable recommendations from GLAAD to the tech industry for bridging the alarming disconnect between content and advertising policies and the LGBTQ user experience. The Social Media Safety Index was created with support from the Gill Foundation and Craig Newmark Philanthropies.
Key findings from the inaugural GLAAD Social Media Safety Index include:
- Surveying the current landscape of leading social media platforms, the entire sector is effectively unsafe for LGBTQ users.
- Of special concern is the prevalence and intensity of hate speech and harassment, which stands out as the most significant problem in urgent need of improvement.
- The problem of anti-LGBTQ hate speech and misinformation is a public health and safety issue.
In recent months, there have been widespread and increasingly urgent pleas from organizations and leaders representing different diverse communities including Color of Change and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) for effective platform responsibility. The GLAAD SMSI adds LGBTQ recommendations to this necessary and urgent dialogue.
GLAAD's SMSI platform responsibility checklist calls for:
- Greater protection of LGBTQ users in community guidelines
- Improved content moderation (and multiple related and overlapping areas including hate speech and misinformation mitigation, enforcement, transparency and accountability, user-reporting systems, self-expression, etc.)
- Mitigating algorithmic bias and bias in artificial intelligence (AI)
- Addressing privacy and outing (including data-privacy & micro-targeting)
- Overall transparency and accountability
- LGBTQ hiring, inclusion and leadership
- Engagement of independent researchers and social scientists
- Engagement of affected users/communities, especially underrepresented groups
- Promotion of civil discourse
To create the Social Media Safety Index, GLAAD convened an Advisory Committee of thought leaders to advise on the content of the Index, including Kara Swisher, Contributing Writer and Host of the 'Sway' podcast at The New York Times and Co-host of the Pivot podcast at New York Media; Maria Ressa, Journalist & CEO, Rappler; Lucy Bernholz, Director, Digital Civil Society Lab, Stanford University; Brandi Collins-Dexter, Visiting Research Fellow, Shorenstein Center and Senior Fellow, Color of Change; Liz Fong-Jones, Principal Developer Advocate for SRE & Observability, Honeycomb; Leigh Honeywell, CEO and Co-Founder, Tall Poppy; Tom Rielly, Founder, TED Fellows program & Founder, PlanetOut.com; Sarah T. Roberts, Co-Director, UCLA Center for Critical Internet Inquiry; and Marlena Wisniak, Co-Director, Taraaz.
"At a time when talk of regulation around content and ads on social media is rapidly escalating and social media platforms consider the critical and urgent calls for transformation from other marginalized communities, the unique needs of LGBTQ people have largely been invisible or fall low on the priority list," said GLAAD CEO & President Sarah Kate Ellis. "The spread of misinformation and disinformation over social media is a leading barrier to full LGBTQ equality and acceptance. The tech industry must realize its obligation to protect LGBTQ users, and tech executives must harness their power as innovators to ameliorate the unsafe environments that have far too long persisted across social media."
In addition to the Social Media Safety Index, GLAAD also launched a Listing of Anti-LGBTQ Online Hate Speech as an additional ongoing tool and resource for achieving greater online safety. Modeled after the ADL's Hate Symbols Database, this resource will expose anti-LGBTQ conduct and content on the platforms and create pressure and accountability for the platforms to address it.
"The amount of dehumanizing and dangerous anti-LGBTQ hate on social media platforms is
astounding," said GLAAD Senior Project Consultant Jenni Olson. "Research shows that social media companies have effective solutions they could be implementing, but they continue to prioritize profits over public safety. Ongoing pressure like GLAAD's Social Media Safety Index is necessary until LGBTQ people are safe on these platforms."
GLAAD has nearly four decades of success in working in Hollywood and journalism to drive LGBTQ inclusion in media. GLAAD's annual reports in the television and film industries have directly resulted in more inclusive LGBTQ content in both of those industries. The highly visible and widely cited annual reports are known for holding networks and studios accountable and have directly resulted in new inclusive series and wide release films, which GLAAD also consults on.
GLAAD offered briefings to each platform named in the Social Media Safety Index to review issues that LGBTQ users face and the recommendations described in the report. Through a series of presentations at conferences and events, GLAAD will continue to maintain an ongoing dialogue about LGBTQ safety amongst tech industry leaders throughout 2021 and beyond. GLAAD will also spotlight new and existing safety issues facing LGBTQ users in real-time, both to the platforms and to the press and public.
GLAAD rewrites the script for LGBTQ acceptance. As a dynamic media force, GLAAD tackles tough issues to shape the narrative and provoke dialogue that leads to cultural change. GLAAD protects all that has been accomplished and creates a world where everyone can live the life they love.